The decision by Government to lease Harrison’s Cave to a Jamaica-based tour company could result in bigger cruise business for Barbados.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins believes Chukka Caribbean Adventures’ strong relationship with international cruise liners may see more ships coming to the island.
Her comments came against the background of Chukka’s chief executive officer Marc Melville disclosing that the company had a relationship with every cruise liner in the world.
Chukka, which operates over 60 tours in Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos, has signed a 25-year lease to operate Barbados’ premier tourist attraction.
That arrangement will take effect from December 1.
“Sixty-five per cent on average of the Cave’s business is derived from cruise ship passengers and the extensive linkages in relationships between Chukka and the Caribbean and the cruise industry…. All across the region, Chukka has extensive relationships with the cruise lines and the cruise partners,” Cummins pointed out during a press conference at the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. on Wednesday morning.
“And, as all of you know, the cruise industry is heavily integrated and the relationships with all of the distribution channels associated with the cruise industries and with the cruise lines that sail to Barbados, when the industry resumes, will ensure that not only are we able to get business from the cruise lines but we are able to expand that business in addition to our long-stay guests and our domestic tourists who will be looking to see not just the Cave that they have seen before but new attractions that will be pouring into Harrison’s Cave over time,” she added.
Cummins stressed, however, that the Government had not sold Harrison’s Cave to Chukka.
She also sought to dispel reports that Government had given a subvention to Chukka as part of the contract to operate the Cave.
“The Government of Barbados has not now, or at any point, provided a subsidy, a subvention or approved supplementary resources as a transfer to Chukka,” the Tourism Minister said.
Ralph Thorne, chairman of Caves of Barbados Limited, which operates Harrison’s Cave, told members of the media that all of the Cave’s employees had received their severance payments last week.
He said they had been invited to reapply for positions that had been made redundant.
Thorne said the process that led to Chukka being selected was “transparent and fair”.
He said the Jamaican company and three Barbadian companies had submitted bids, but Chukka’s was “far superior” to the others.
Thorne said as part of the arrangement, Chukka would pay Government a management fee for operating Harrison’s Cave.
When asked to disclose that fee, Melville said it was not a fixed figure but would depend on how well Chukka did.
“It’s a true partnership in terms of it’s a public-private sector partnership. It’s a participatory lease, so what that means is as we earn, you earn; it’s not a fixed fee,” he explained.