When Jamaican-owned Chukka Caribbean Adventures successfully landed the bid to operate Harrison’s Cave, Barbados’s top attraction, many in that nation had openly questioned the sanity of the decision.
There were even talks that the Barbadian Government was “selling an important part of the country’s history and the birthright of its citizens”.
“Not so…Harrison’s Cave remains Barbados’s premier attraction and has not been sold to anybody,” explained Marc Melville, Chukka’s chief executive officer (CEO).
“We are simply the new operators. We were motivated to bid to manage the facility when we saw the tremendous potential for unlocking and enhancing the value of this natural asset.”
He added: “Our strategy is to locate unique nature adventure assets like a great river, a great waterfall, even a historical site and build around it with daily activities that we know people want. It is the DNA of what we do.”
Melville added that there will be further infrastructural development at the newly renamed Harrison’s Cave Eco Adventure, noting that Chukka will be adding a dry slide, a free swinging bridge across the gully, a zipline, a freefall tower, a challenge course and an aviary, among other features intended to enhance the attraction.
“We are simply the new operators. We were motivated to bid to manage the facility when we saw the tremendous potential for unlocking and enhancing the value of this natural asset.”— Marc Melville, chief executive officer, Chukka Caribbean Adventures
“Chukka is a nature adventure operator. We develop great natural assets by enhancing the activity profile around the asset and giving customers more value at the same site,” Melville said, as he pointed to Harrison’s Cave being “a marquee attraction” for Barbados.
“You have this great underground cavern cave system and the Government, with a lot of foresight, invested in developing it and making it unique. It is the jewel in the crown, but it is a single-focus activity,” he pointed out further.
“Where the nature venture business is heading is that people want to continue to go back to experience that site. But if it does not evolve, it makes it less attractive for people to want to go back and see it.”
Since officially opening to the public in 1981, scores of people have taken the tram ride to view the waterfalls, the meandering streams of water, the underground pools of crystal-clear water, and the spectacle and picturesque view of one of nature’s finest beauties.
Melville, however, noted that by adding new features, Chukka’s strategy is “to keep the visitation up, increase the yield, and even decrease the footprint of people walking through the cave to make sure you can protect the basic asset responsible for generating the revenue”.
“The key is to have more and more people going through the location but not necessarily the cave. We aim to enhance Harrison’s Cave to a place where people who have been there before would want to return. We are trying to create a place where people would want to come and stay and play and we want to build a park to accommodate diversity in age and diversity in people’s likes. In short, we want it to be an eco-park with the cave as the epicentre,” the Chukka CEO added.
Today, Chukka operates 23 attractions in five territories, with Barbados being the latest to join Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos Islands offering nature adventure activities.
“Once the borders reopen on both sides, we feel there is going to be a dramatic increase in arrivals and spend once we are coming out of the pandemic,” Melville said, adding: “Your domestic market is always a major chunk of what makes the business successful.”
Melville said construction of the new attractions at the park would begin next month, and he anticipated the work would be completed over the next 12 months.