The COVID-19 pandemic has put the multi-million dollar renovation of Harrison’s Cave on pause.
Marc Melville, the chief executive officer of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, the Jamaican company which runs the St Thomas attraction, told Barbados TODAY while everything was in place for work to begin, the current restrictions were hampering plans.
Chukka, Jamaica’s largest nature adventure tour operator was awarded a 25-year-lease by Government to operate the Cave from last December.
The company is investing $9 million to transform Harrison’s Cave into a once-in-a-lifetime experience for locals and visitors.
Among the planned changes is the introduction of ziplines, suspended walkways, a dry slide, a designated play area for children, a challenge course and bird aviary.
Work was scheduled to begin early this year but has been pushed back due to COVID-19.
In a telephone interview from Jamaica, Melville said the design for the new-look Harrison’s Cave was at an advanced stage.
“We’ve already done all of the heavy lifting staff-related and we are still running ads in the paper for positions that are still outstanding. For the rest of it, we are working feverishly in the background. Our biggest challenge is it makes no sense sending our staff back until you open up a bit, but as soon as your doors are open we will be ready.
“I would say the design is very, very far on the way, it is more in the fine-tuning stage. There’s maintenance work going on there at the moment, but the new development hasn’t started…Our deadline was October 1, but every month that you’re not open as a country so to speak, it gets pushed back. But, our team is ready and raring to go,” Melville maintained.
He said while much physical work wasn’t being done at the Cave presently, the company was still looking at ways to improve its operations.
Melville said the rollout of Government’s vaccination programme was encouraging, saying it would go a long way in helping to fight COVID-19 and restart the economy.
“We have been waiting for Barbados just like every other island to re-open for regular business, travel and development, so what we have been working on is a lot of IT, a lot of HR, working with our architects, working on approvals and fine-tuning the design and everything so as soon as we have a clear horizon for things opening up we’re there,
but it doesn’t mean that we’re not working now.
“We’re just so pleased that Barbados is ahead of the Caribbean in terms of vaccinating so that is very reassuring to us and the rate at which America is vaccinating its people, we may have a swifter comeback than we thought,” Melville added.