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‘Disappointing’ Symmonds: Local proposals for future of Harrisons Cave not up to scratch

Article By: Randy Bennett taken from Barbados TODAY News – Wednesday May 18, 2022
The management of Barbados’ premier tourist attraction, Harrison’s Cave was awarded to Chukka Caribbean Adventures because the plans of the local entities that expressed interest were not up to scratch.

In fact, according to Senior Minister and Minister of Energy and Business Development Kerrie Symmonds, the proposals presented were “mundane” while the Jamaican company’s transformative vision was exactly what was needed for Harrison’s Cave.

He said with Government looking to take full advantage of Harrison’s Cave, Chukka’s experience in transforming tourist attractions to world-class destinations was the deciding factor in their selection for a 25-year lease in December 2020, to run the St. Thomas facility.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during debate on the Caves Amendment Bill, 2022, Symmonds said several local, regional and international companies had responded after the proposal went out to tender.

However, he described the local companies’ vision for Harrison’s Cave as “disappointing.”

“There were some Barbadian companies that participated and we would have been the very happiest campers in the world if when tenders had been opened we had seen stuff other than that which was mundane.

“We would have been the happiest campers in the world if we did not open a tender and see that the future of Harrison’s Cave as an attraction that had to be managed in accordance with best practices and a product that should be enhanced, that the approach to that would be to get new trams and run the trams 24 hours a day, if possible, so that you could put more people through the cave and carry them along on another experience after that experience was over,” Symmonds said.

“We would be the happiest campers in the world if we were able to open tenders and find that the imagination of the private sector in this country was such that they would do more than some adjustments to the roof in the waiting room, but that was the mundane. It is disappointing because the premier tourism destination in this part of the Caribbean is Barbados…and we expect therefore, that the principle players in tourism would step up to the plate and with the greatest degree of creativity partner with Government in an opportunity to make sure that this unique tourism attraction can be the best in class and manner alongside any in the world.”

Symmonds said Chukka’s tender stood head and shoulders above that of any local company.
“That tender reflected a concept that you find almost impossible to resist. It is a concept that says, ‘pause, Government of Barbados. Do not see your cave as a stop for the tour bus on its way around the country during the course of the day. See your cave as an experience that will take up the whole day…as a family outing for the entire day’,” he said.

Chukka operates nature-adventure attractions in Jamaica, Belize, Turk and Caicos Islands, and the Dominican Republic.
It has promised a multi-million-dollar upgrade of Barbados’ main attraction that will see it transformed into the Harrison’s Cave Eco-Adventure Park with several exciting features including a suspension bridge, bird aviary, freefall platform, challenge course, children’s play area, a redesigned retail centre, a zipline and an interactive green monkey experience.

Andrea Franklin, Country Manager of Chukka Caribbean Adventures (Barbados) Ltd., said in January that some elements of the estimated $9 million improvement work were almost complete.

randybennett@barbadostoday.bb

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