Chukka Caribbean Adventures has collaborated with the Antigua and Barbuda Government to create, manage, and operate a new historical eco-adventure tour in Fort Barrington, Antigua, in time for Antigua Cruise Port’s fifth pier to welcome the world’s largest cruise ships.
The project will create up to 75 new jobs in construction and hospitality, as well as additional support in the form of transportation providers and more, according to Chukka.
“We are always looking for world-class partners, and in this instance, based on their track record of developing Caribbean tours and attractions; we are excited to welcome this relationship with Chukka. This new attraction will help support the exponential growth in guests expected at the new cruise berth,” Minister of Tourism for Antigua and Barbuda, Charles Fernandez said in a release.
“This public-private partnership will financially benefit the government of Antigua and its residents in a variety of ways, thanks to the government’s long-term lease commitment. Job opportunities and investments are some of the direct benefits, while indirect benefits include increased taxi use and improved port attractions to boost visitor satisfaction,” he said.
Chukka’s Chief Executive Officer, Marc Melville says his company had no doubt about “staying the course,” even during the heights of the pandemic, adding that “as Jamaicans” we have long learned the heart of being resilient and that “we never… ever… fold over and die.”
He adds that it was always Chukka’s intention to continue broadening its horizons throughout the region, while sticking to its Jamaican roots.
“We are honoured to have been chosen as the development partner for this marquee historical nature adventure attraction. We look forward to working with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, the various ministries, and local partners/stakeholders to create a world-class development at Fort Barrington,” Melville says.
He explains that Chukka specialises in identifying marquee attractions and iconic sites and in doing that, “we’ve had a look at Antigua and the list of gems they have and we were able to locate one that we think could fit the criteria. The site is somewhat a diamond in the rough with great potential.”
“The development we expect to do there is to highlight and tell a great story about the rich history already there, while offering great activities for guests to enjoy. The location provides an opportunity for many activities outside the fort,” he adds.
Meanwhile, he notes the company’s latest partnership with the recently opened ROK Hotel in downtown Kingston, for which Chukka was co-opted to provide tours, concierge, valet, and other services to guests of the 168-room facility.
“As a Caribbean tourism entity, much of the COVID-related disruptions are now behind us and we are moving forward in the recovery. There are lots of opportunities out there and we still have a few more good announcements to make in terms of expansions, which we expect to give at the appropriate time,” Melville says.
Chukka’s continued foray into other territories within the region has been lauded by Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett as a signal that the country’s tourism product is on a path of “complete” regional dominance.
The Jamaican company’s latest investment in Antigua and Barbuda, Bartlett said, is “just another indication” that “our product” is highly recognised and “highly sought after.”
Chukka already has attractions in the Dominican Republic, Belize, Barbados and Turks & Caicos.
“Just like Sandals [Resorts] International, when you hear the name Chukka… you think of Jamaica. It’s Jamaican owned… most of their top-flight attractions are in Jamaica,” Bartlett points out.
“It’s just like when our tourism workers go overseas to work on hotel programmes or on the cruise ships… we are marketing Jamaica,” he adds.
The minister says he was impressed at Chukka’s level of commitment to Jamaica during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the company “basically rolled the dice” as it relates to bolstering its investments.
Noting that “fortune usually favours the brave,” Bartlett notes that Chukka must be commended for not only furthering its investments in Jamaica, but also its venture into the wider Caribbean territories, while protecting its workers.
“Here is a company which could have played the wait and see game but didn’t,” the minister stresses.
“During the heights of the pandemic, it spent loads of money on its Good Hope [Falmouth], Island Village [Ocho Rios] and Sandy Bay [Hanover] locations. It also took on an attraction in Barbados and now Antigua and Barbuda. Hats off to the Chukka team as we wish them well in their continued role as Jamaican ambassadors supreme,” he says.