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Marc Melville, Chief Executive Officer of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, speaking about some of the plans earmarked for Harrison's Cave.

Chukka prepared to invest in Harrison's Cave

WHEN Chukka Caribbean Adventures pursues the first phase of development at Harrison's Cave, it will be to the tune of $9 million.

So says Marc Melville, Chief Executive Officer of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, and he further indicated that as the project develops over the years, they will be investing more, putting aside a capital budget annually. He made the point as he disclosed that there are plans to erect suspended bridges, dry slides and zip lines, an activity area for children, themed retail and food and beverage experiences and selfie spots on the Harrison's Cave property and with the new additions, he said, will come new job opportunities.

Melville spoke to those plans yesterday morning during a press conference in the conference room of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., which was also attended by Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins and Chairman of the Board of Cave of Barbados Limited, Ralph Thorne.

Asked when the work will commence, he stated that they expect the transition period to be completed by early January and they should have a better idea then of when the work on the property will begin.

"But what I could say is that once the transition period is over and things have normalised, we don't plan to hold back on the development plan. We plan to move ahead immediately with it because our development plan is directly linked to the revenue potential of the facility, because you have a lot of the infrastructure already," he added.

Melville's comments came as he said Harrison's Cave is a unique resource of which this country can be proud.

"It is very, very impressive. The foundation that we have had the benefit to come and work on top of is very unusual. I see assets like this all the time and they are in their raw state," he said.

He added, "For us what is important as we are a nature adventure operator and we are all about the environment, the key is to make sure that the natural asset that you [have] there to develop and promote, doesn't necessarily get a larger footprint, but that you enhance the activities around it so that you get bigger participation, higher yield and better revenue."

With that in mind, the CEO indicated that their investment will increase the value proposition of the cave, such that persons want to visit the attraction multiple times and experience the various aspects of the property. He added that there will be different price entry levels and different levels of activity to enjoy.

"We are going to make sure that the park is developed every 18 months... you need to keep it relevant and you need to do it in line with the theme and the canvas that you have. You can't put big roller coasters on top of this place, or put glitzy towers or anything like that. This is a nature adventure asset. It is quiet, you have here the trees, you can hear the birds, you can see the monkeys walking around - so we have developed a strategy that would allow you to continue to enjoy all of that, but increase your activity level and level of enjoyment, plus add some fantastic food and beverage options and some great retail," he stated.

He added that his company, which operates in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and now Barbados, prides itself on finding the most unique natural spots throughout the Caribbean and "bring the asset alive for the enjoyment of the locals and for visitors".

"Our job is to take you and show you the usually unseen in a way in which you wouldn't normally see it, or in a way in which you can get there easier and experience it. Many of the spots that we go to, many of these natural sites also, believe it or not, end up having a lot of history and a lot of culture and part of our passion is to be able to tell that history and tell that culture," he added. (JRT)

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