Founded in 1983, Chukka Caribbean Adventures is now one of the premier land-based nature adventure tour providers in the Carribean region.The company offers 38 tours in Jamaica, Belize, The Bahamas, and Turks & Caicos Islands. Collectively, the operations delivered over 250,000 adventure tours to cruise and hotel guests in 2006.
Not only does Chukka work on providing people with unique experiences, it is also home to the Jamaica Dogsled Team in Ocho Rios.
Breaking Travel News caught up with Marc Melville, Co-Managing Director of Chukka Caribbean Adventures.
BTN: How is tourism in Jamaica doing?
Melville: Jamaican tourism is still growing at a rapid pace, primarily because there are a lot of Spanish chains opening up, not to mention a lot of all-inclusive hotels as well.
They have changed and they really want to get people out of the property to experience Jamaica. Anybody can go to the beach and sea in the Caribbean. What makes Jamaica different from say St Lucia, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands is Jamaica’s culture, music, history and people. In Jamaica we are fortunate because we have so much natural diversity within twenty minutes of most destinations.
BTN: What are you working on at the moment?
Melville: At Chukka we are launching seven new products in Jamaica. We are launching dune buggy tours, which we launched in Grand Turk last year and mini-safari boat tours, which is our first venture into that sector. We also launched a Jamaican dog sled team tour, we actually have a dog sled team and we competed at the Minnesota Winter Fair this year. Jimmy Buffet from Margaritaville is our sponsor. Chris Blackwell from Island Pictures is doing the documentary for us. And outside of Jamaica we are looking at expanding into the Cayman Islands this year.
BTN: Do you market through the properties or are you doing your own marketing?
Melville: We have three main avenues: On the ground we work through the local hotels such as Sandals. On the cruise ship side of things—because they are a major part of our business—we contract directly with all the cruise lines that call at the ports we operate. And then our booking engine, we just launched our booking engine. We’re now starting the process of getting the bookings directly.
BTN: A lot of what you do is adventure based. However, are you looking more at the cultural and experiential side of things such as cooking or music?
Melville: We have a fine dining tour and that has done well for us. But so far we have not ventured too far into the cultural end of things. We have a tour that goes off to sites relating to Bob Marley, so that is music and culture orientated. I think this year we are going to continue to grow the soft adventure business and we will be looking more into water sports.
BTN: Is there potential in the culture area?
Melville: Yes Jamaica is not just about soft adventure, sun, sand and beach you know—we have the music and the people and the culture, more so than a lot of the other islands. I mean they all have a rich history, but I have to be biased and say that Jamaica has a really rich history.