Surifesta: Celebrating Owru Yari in Suriname

Suriname has a long tradition of the End of the Year/New Years celebrations. Experiences from previous years/decades have shown that more and more Surinamese living abroad travel to Suriname in order to celebrate New Years Eve.
This movement can partly be credited to the yearly ‘Owru Yari’ event and the convivial atmosphere it creates.
This document gives a general overview of the role of the Surifesta Foundation in the Owru Yari celebrations, including its vision on developing Suriname as a tourism destination in the month December.

About Surifesta

The Surifesta Foundation was established in 1997 by initiatives of the private sector aiming to coordinate the events around December 31st and to improve tourism to Suriname by changing Paramaribo into one big, joyful entertainment area, the place to be. Hence, the name Surifesta, a simple abbreviation of ‘Suriname’ and ‘Festa: a social gathering for the purpose of celebration’.

With a large number of activities already being around, it was the Minister of Transport, Communication and Tourism who brought together the key players from the Surinamese private sector to create a combined product, celebrating ‘Owru Yari’ together, which could help to develop the tourism sector in a sustainable way.

Established events

Since 1997 the Surifesta has paid strong support towards the heritage of Kawina music connected to the End of the Years Celebration (Owru Yari). The three main events which have highlighted the Surifesta period since its beginning are:

The Tori Oso Parbo Kawina Festival on December 30th (formerly held at Tori Oso, now relocated to the Chamber of Commerce)
The Pagarra Festival during daytime on the 31st in the Inner City of Paramaribo (Organised by DownTown Paramaribo)
The Owru Yari Streetparty at the Entertainment Area (Organised by Stichting Uitgaanscentrum Paramaribo) at nighttime on the December 31st.

The Surifesta foundation has not only supported these events, but has also helped to built these events to what they are today, helping to establish the organizing committees and providing general information about safety and awareness to the Surinamese society. Always included in the Surifesta calendar are the National and the DSB Bank ChristmasConcerts in the third week of December and the Bigi Broki Waka, which is considered the final event of the Surifesta period. Also cultural events organized by organizations such as the Federation of Visual Artist of Suriname (FVAS) have been included in the past, as well as culinary events.

Future focus

The Surifesta hopes to built on a solid foundation which receives recognition on a yearly basis (Paramaribo was named a Top 10 New Years Eve destination by CNN in 2010 and grabbed headlines in 2013 on the websites of CNN, Yahoo and the Wall Street Business Journal) to create a sustainable tourism industry during the Surifesta period, which not only exists of Surinamese Diaspora tourists, but also regional tourists (Brazil, Guyane, French Guiana, Trinidad, Curacao, Aruba and the USA among others). In the end, sustainable development could see Paramaribo live up to its potential as a global destination as New Years Eve destination.

Also, the Surifesta Foundation puts a strong focus on innovation, having headlined the following events in the past years:

  • Strong presence on Social Media, with a reach of over 100.000 Facebook users in 2013 (well over 50+% of the Surinamese online population at the time), which has grown to over 200.000+ in 2017
  • Years of experience in live streaming (6 live cameras spread over the city attracted more than 10.000 visitors on in 1 day in 2014)
  • The Owru Yari Awards, the first National Media Award Show used to officially kick off the Surifesta period, including online voting for the People’s Choice Award of the Owru Yari Awards in 2014 and 2015.
  • The Surifesta Mobile App, available both for Android and iPhone, since 2014
  • Cultural events such as the Airport wall painting and Culinary events such as the ‘Burger Battle final’ included in this years programme
  • An official count down street party on the Indepence Square since 2015

Aside from these innovations, the Surifesta foundation is well aware that these innovations alone will not lead to sustainable tourism development. For that reason, the following work areas have been identified:

  • General awareness on safety with fireworks
  • General awareness on crowd management
  • Creative city tours, benefiting the Surifesta period
  • Spreading of the events, not solely centered around December 31st
  • Stronger inclusion of culinary and cultural events