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Dolphin Cove weighs alternate plan for first regional park

Published:Wednesday | August 24, 2016 | 8:00 AMTameka Gordon
Stafford Burrowes, chairman and CEO of Dolphin Cove Limited.

Chairman and founder of Dolphin Cove, Stafford Burrowes, says the company will likely bump up plans for expansion to St Lucia as its first regional park over the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) for which it has been trying for some time to obtain approvals.

The company has been trying for more than four years to expand regionally, but with TCI approvals slow in coming, Burrowes told Gleaner Business, "We may jump over TCI and bring St Lucia in a little quicker.

"There is a new government in St Lucia and I think that is a very god government to us," he said, adding the company is anxious to launch these parks.

Operators of animal parks typically face pushback from animal rights lobby groups and this, Burrowes reasoned, has led to the delay in the TCI planning department "finally giving us the rubber stamp".

"We have our permit to operate a dolphin park and our engineering drawings and EIA are with planning department. But like everywhere, there is a pushback and it is very strong there," he said, while charging that this pushback emanates from foreigners living in TCI, or 'non-belongers' as they are called, and not the local populace.

Dolphin Cove has submitted an environmental impact assessment on the marine park development to the TCI authority and is just awaiting their decision to move forward, he said.

The marine park, based in Jamaica, currently operates four locations on the north coast. The company bought lands in St Lucia in 2012 and in the TCI a year later.

Last year, Dolphin Cove was taken over by World of Dolphin Inc, whose subsidiary Dolphin Discovery now operates the marine park. Burrowes remains in charge of the company.

CEO of the Dolphin Discovery Group, Eduardo Albor Villanueva, told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday that US$40 million has already been spent on upgrading the existing facilities of Dolphin Cove to benefit both staff and guests.

 

US$2-MILLION INJECTION

 

This year, Dolphin Discovery is pumping US$2 million into initiatives related to Dolphin Cove's physical plant, cost efficiencies and revenue enhancement, according to CEO of the Dolphin Discovery Group, Eduardo Albor Villanueva, at the Jamaican company's annual general meeting in New Kingston on Monday.

The improvements included the kitchen and break rooms, according to regional director for Jamaica, Alex Raygoza.

Burrowes said plans to add other local parks should take off, given the resources of the new owner.

"What Dolphin discovery brings to the table is a whole lot of expertise that we were scrounging around to find. We have a lot of babies and we have the staff," he said. "When it was just us alone, we had to do one (park) at a time. But with the resources behind us now, we can do two at the same time."

Dolphin Cove is valued at around $1.7 billion by annual revenues. At half-year ending June, the company's sales topped $1 billion, placing it on track to exceed its annual performance in 2015. Profit at half-year was up from $284 million to $345 million.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com