by Marlon Madden
The latest addition to Barbados’ premier tourist attraction is already gathering momentum, only a week after it was introduced to the public. The Harrison’s Cave Eco-Adventure Park, which is now being operated by CHUKKA Caribbean Adventures (Barbados) Ltd., has also increased its employment to 90 people, up from 60 a month ago.
On June 15, the St Thomas attraction officially introduced an upgraded facility with five ziplines, a zip and gully challenge course and a nature trail. Country Manager of CHUKKA Caribbean Adventures (Barbados) Ltd. Andrea Franklin said since then bookings have been on a steady upward trajectory, and she expected the current summer period to be a hit especially among school groups and locals.
“It has been going well so far. It has been a gradual increase. Persons are coming on sight and seeing it
and then they are purchasing up-sells – so whereas they came for one particular tour they are seeing
it in operation and coming back and buying,” explained Franklin.
“We have been slowly building and we are now promoting the packages, but we anticipate that this summer will be a good one in terms of persons coming to try the new activities in particular . . . For summer for us it will be a lot of locals. We anticipate that we will have good support from the local market,” she said.
In fact, Franklin explained that while individuals and groups would normally book their tour closer to the date, and even within the same week they wanted to do the tours, that seemed to be slowly changing with the upgrades, with more people booking weeks or even a month in advance.
“We are already getting lots of calls from school groups and camps in terms of them making reservations ahead of time . . . we are getting a lot of groups enquiring for the summer,” she added. Prior to June 15, the location, which was previously operated by Caves of Barbados, would only offer an approximately one-hour cave tour and shopping experience.
“At the end of last month, the new operators, the Jamaica-based CHUKKA Caribbean Adventures, announced a revamped visitor’s centre, a new Mount Gay rum cellar and a tasting room, which all formed part of phase one of a an overall near $10 million (US$5 million) upgrade of the location. The next phase of the upgrades will include the completion of a Bajan chattel house themed video information room by the end of July, completion of an approximately 30-foot infinity pool by the end of October, while an enhanced interpretation centre, a dry slide, a suspended bridge, additional gazebos, an aviary and a renewed retail centre are to follow by year-end.
Today’s BUSINESS had the opportunity to experience the breath-taking ziplines and the zip and gully challenge earlier this week. It was fun from start to end, with the knowledgeable and courteous staff making the experience even more enjoyable and memorable from the moment of arrival at the location until time for the departure. Franklin said while Harrison’s Cave has always prided itself on giving excellent customer service, there has been an even stronger focus on this area, as well as that of training.
“Customer service is important for us, so from day one we do customer service training.
The guys on the zipline they went through intense training and certification. They would have to pass the certification in order to be operating the zipline, and then we also have some senior guys from some of our other locations here working along with them to make sure they are comfortable in the new position,” said Franklin.
“Yes it is about creating experiences and creating fun activity, but safety is paramount for us. So making sure that safety is on point is also our main priority,” she added. One couple who was visiting the location for the first time on Monday told Today’s BUSINESS they were “extremely excited. This was the first thing on our ‘to do’ list once on the island”.
CHUKKA Caribbean Adventures also has operations in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.