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Economic Impact of Junkanoo

In June 2013, the below presentation was given at the Bahamas @ Forty Conference at the College of The Bahamas.

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Pulling together the results from this study is a slow affair. Each semester, students collect more information and add it to the list; they run preliminary analyses on their studies and then I follow up. The results are shared here on these pages.

I am updating these pages to allow people to view some of our results. Feel free to engage in discussions. The comment feeds are open on the pages.

SOS 200 (Social Research) Research on the Economics of Junkanoo

originally printed in the College of The Bahamas Alumni Magazine,  2010

SOS 200 (Social Research) Research on the Economics of Junkanoo

Junkanoo in The Bahamas costs millions of dollars annually in administration and man-hours. However, no one is able to declare exactly how much economic activity it generates in the society—how much it costs overall, or how much it earns. Studies conducted elsewhere in the Caribbean and throughout the world show that festivals can generate up to eleven times the investment in direct and indirect economic benefits.  For the past three semesters, students at The College of The Bahamas, have been conducting research to quantify the costs and the benefits of Junkanoo.

The study began in January 2009 with the thirty-three Law and Criminal Justice students enrolled in Nicolette Bethel’s SOS 200 class. Defining “costs” and “benefits” fairly narrowly—in purely economic terms—students conducted a two-part project, beginning with a baseline survey of over 300 college students to discover their involvement in and commitment to the festival. This was administered during the first part of the term, and it sought to obtain information on students’ average expenditure and favoured forms of paid entertainment as well as the level of their involvement with the Junkanoo parade, and their willingness to pay to attend Junkanoo. The second part of the term saw them break into small groups to carry out further studies of various kinds. Half the class investigated the costs of the festival, the other the benefits. They utilized various research methods—collection and analysis of existing data, further survey research, and interviews. Although they generated some interesting results, by far the most glaring one was their discovery of a widespread and general lack of concrete data about our most important national festival, together with a great reluctance on the part of virtually every sector involved with its production to share what information it had. The result of this study was to underscore the critical need for the conduct of further research in the area.

In September 2009, the study was further expanded, this time in response to a request from two members of the Junkanoo community who were seeking to improve the parade, with special emphasis on the spectator experience. The clients visited the class to outline their goals, and the students designed a comprehensive survey instrument which examined in more depth respondents’ recreational expenditure, their attendance at and participation in Junkanoo, their appraisal of the overall quality of the parade as well as the quality of their experience at the parade, their sense of the importance of Junkanoo to Bahamian society, their satisfaction with the location of the parade, their suggestions for improvement in the spectator experience, and their sense of security at the festival. This survey was administered to over 600 persons, both by hand and online, and while analysis is ongoing, preliminary results suggest a broader and deeper investment in Junkanoo, particularly on the part of the youth (the 18-25 year-old bracket), than was previously hypothesized.

The most recent part of the research, currently ongoing among SOS 200 students, tests the hypothesis that better marketing will increase the profitability of the parades. Official figures supplied by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture suggest that Junkanoo is currently a losing enterprise—that for every dollar spent annually by the Ministry and its agents, no more than $0.35 or $0.40 is returned. Inspired by the advertising surrounding the 2009 hosting of Miss Universe, students set out to discover how many tourists have heard of or attended Junkanoo. A survey was conducted among roughly 200 tourists to find out their knowledge of Caribbean cultural festivals in general and of Junkanoo in particular, and this was followed up by focus group interviews regarding the current extent of marketing of the parade.

The research is ongoing, and it has generated interest among and support from major Junkanoo stakeholders such as the Junkanoo Corporation New Providence, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Junkanoo Talks, and individual Junkanoo practitioners. It is hoped that the results will help to shape the future development of our national parade, and potentially assist in the development of a sustainable, resilient industry around it, as cultural festivals have been shown to do elsewhere in the Caribbean and the world.


Since January 2009, students enrolled in the Social Methods course at the College of The Bahamas have been engaged in a long-term study on the economics of the Bahamian festival, Junkanoo. The research began with a simple problem: Junkanoo is the largest and most well-known of any Bahamian festival and is widely considered the national festival. Around the Caribbean and the world, street festivals and carnivals have proven to be important sources of revenue. It is not known, however, whether Junkanoo is a similar source of revenue, and if so, what kind of economic impact the festival has on the city of Nassau. Students in the SOS 200 class have been engaged in finding the answer out.

This blog is being established in December 2011 to collect up some of the preliminary findings in a single place and to provide a place for students and others to deposit and share their research. This site is an informal place where these findings are shared. Anyone using this site should be aware that the information here may not always be accurate, as it has not been peer-reviewed. It is, however, one avenue provided to allow students to share the research they have already collected, and to draw upon the research of previous student groups.

Note: the header photograph is taken from a series of photographs by Peter Ramsay from Junkanoo 2010-2011.