Attendance at the Virgin Islands Music Festival (shown above on the night of Friday, May 24) was much lower than expected overall. (File Photo: Allison Vaughn)

Though attendance at the recent Virgin Islands Music Festival was far lower than organisers hoped amid calls for a boycott, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said his government won’t give up on such events.

Instead, he said he will work to improve them in the future in order to boost tourism in the territory.

During a press conference on Friday, the premier did not provide details about the finances or attendance of the festival, which he previously had said was allocated $670,000 that government hoped to make back through ticket sales, sponsorships and other revenue streams.

Attendance for the event appeared far weaker than expected, with no more than 1,000 people showing up for the prime Saturday night highlight and far fewer on the other two nights.

But the premier said he would host local meetings focusing on the event when he returns from delivering a statement to the United Nations on decolonisation in New York this week.

The discussions will concentrate on pricing, event length and the entertainment line-up, the premier said.

“I will have a debriefing with all stakeholders to discuss the execution of the event and how it can be improved,” he told reporters on Friday. “We are committed to making event tourism an integral part of the Virgin Islands tourism product.”

Boycott calls

The event drew calls for a boycott from residents who said that government should not be spending money on a music festival at a time when basic infrastructure needs such as roadwork are dramatically underfunded.

Even Deputy Premier Lorna Smith suggested before the event that she had reservations about it, telling ZBVI Radio in May, “I support the government’s agenda, but I don’t think the premier expects me to agree with everything he does.”

However, Dr. Wheatley insisted on Friday that the festival would be a template for future moves to attract tourists.

“I firmly believe the music festival will be a model for future economic activities — particularly benefiting small businesses,” he said. “Event tourism is a powerful catalyst for growth and development.”

The premier said the cost and length of future festivals would be considered.

“We can look at the price of the event,” he said. “We can look at whether it was wise to do over three days as opposed to two days. We can look at the line-up, how it’s marketed.”

Dr. Wheatley added that the discussions on the music festival would occur after he returns from trips to New York and the Cayman Islands.

“I think that bringing back the music festival can be built on,” he said. “There can be improvements.”

The three-day festival was held behind the Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex in Road Town.

Alkaline was the top act on the Saturday set, but audience figures did not appear to reach 1,000.