Harrison’s Cave, the island’s top tourist attraction, has come in for high praise from European Union delegates, including top officials from the financial institution that helped to fund its redevelopment almost ten years ago.
Officials of the European Investment Bank (EIB), which funded the 2006 redevelopment of the St Thomas facility, visited the cave today as part of their two-day visit to the island to meet with key Government ministers, ambassadors and the local business community, as well as to conduct business with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Following the approximately one hour-long tour, the EIB’s Vice President, Pim Van Ballekom, told members of the media that during his visit to the Caribbean he would also be “looking to more investment possibilities”.
Ballekom noted that approximately 30 million Euros (65 million Barbados dollars), in the form of a long-term Government-backed loan, was approved for funding the redevelopment of the facility between 2006 and 2009.
The upgrade of the facility resulted in improved parking, new and improved restaurant facilities, as well as a souvenir shop with special sections for children and stationery items.
“It is an impressive tourist attraction,” said Ballekom.
“And that is quite an important part of business here in Barbados in the tourist industry. I think it is an asset to the tourist industry, so I think it is a good investment,” he said.
EU Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Mikael Barfod said he was proud to be associated with the developments, pointing out it was an important investment for the country.
“It is obviously a project that will attract tourists, which will generate jobs and which will eventually create [economic] growth, which is what Barbados needs the most at the moment. So I believe that these types of attractions are very important complement to the tourist offers that are made in Barbados and would certainly help to create growth in the future as well.”
Meanwhile, acting Chief Executive Officer of Harrison’s Cave Jennifer Williams told Barbados TODAY she and her team would be embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign in order to attract more tourists to the location in coming months.
The former financial officer said they would be working closely with the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI).
“We are growing steadily. It is not what we have predicted, but we are growing steadily,” she said, of the business at Harrison’s Cave.
Prior to the tour, Ballekom signed a letter of intent with the CDB President Dr Warren Smith, signaling their intention to work together in the future to address pressing issues relating to climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“The letter of intent we have just signed, formalizes a phase in our relationship that effectively started in December 2011 when EIB agreed to provide a 50 million Euro [109 million Barbados dollars] climate action line of credit to be used to finance public or private sector climate action projects, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, low carbon technologies, development and innovation and adaptation,” explained Smith.
He said CDB was pleased with the development of the climate action line of credit, adding that total commitments to date amounted to US$35 million (70 million Barbados dollars) or 54 per cent of the facility.
He said the funds have so far been used for highway reconstruction, water supply redevelopment, dam rehabilitation and development of a solar plant in the region.
“It is anticipated that the funds will be fully committed by March 2016 with the approval of another three projects at our December board meeting,” Smith added.