Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Online bookings boost Dolphin Cove business

Published:Wednesday | June 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
A trainer takes a dolphin through its paces at the marine park owned by Dolphin Cove Limited in Ocho Rios.

Marine park operator Dolphin Cove Limited credits its relatively new online booking platform and websites for increasing individual and small group visits to its venues.

Usually visitors would come to the venues in tours facilitated by cruise ships or hotels. Dolphin Cove, which will spend US$2 million this year on upgrades in Jamaica, said that individuals are increasingly planning their own activities while staying in hotels or in rooms rented through sites such as Airbnb.

Dolphin Cove chairman Stafford Burrowes said the online business complements room rental platforms, especially since the marine attraction began allowing bookings online.

"We work along with them. They get into Dolphin Cove through online bookings, which we were not doing before. We have seen a tremendous growth as well. So I do not see any threat from electronic mediums or Airbnb," Burrowes said at the company's annual general meeting on Monday.

The focus on e-commerce by the local company comes after its acquisition by Mexican company Dolphin Discovery Group.

"People feel very comfortable going by themselves and booking online. Once you book your airline ticket and accommodation, then the next thing you do is plan your activities," said Dolphin Discovery CEO Eduardo Albor Villanueva at the annual meeting in New Kingston.

Albor said Dolphin Cove needs to keep updating its digital marketing campaigns, which includes search engine optimisation. For the first five months of 2017, online booking increased nearly 40 per cent over last year, he said.

"Rather than seeing Airbnb as a threat, we know that booking online is the trend. Everytime, it will grow more and more," said the Dolphin Discovery head.

 

Year of transition

 

Albor described 2016 as a year of transition for Dolphin Cove under the new owner. World of Dolphins Inc, which controls Dolphin Discovery, acquired 79.99 per cent of Dolphin Cove Limited in January 2016.

"We target 2017 with an increase in revenues and earnings before interest tax depreciation amortisation with a similar US$2 million in capital expenditures, preparing our Dolphin Parks to become the most exciting experiences in Jamaica," said Albor in the Dolphin Cove annual report.

The US$2 million capex planned for this year matches the spend in Jamaica in 2016.

Dolphin Cove expects to spend more on its marine park in St Lucia "nearing the latter part of 2017", according to Albor. Initially, Dolphin Cove expected to open in St Lucia this year, but it still awaits environmental permits, which pushes back the opening to at least 2018.

Dolphin Cove previously disclosed that it plans to spend US$3.5 million in St Lucia. The attraction there will operate through SB Holdings Limited, set up in November 2013, and its wholly owned subsidiary, Marine Adventure Park Limited.

Dolphin Cove currently operates in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Its regional expansion plans also include Turks & Caicos Islands, where it has already secured land for the park project.

In 2016, the group relaunched its Prospect Park as Yaaman Adventure Park.

The Up to March, the marine park operator valued its live assets at US$4.13 million - of which over 90 per cent refers to dolphins - compared to US$2.95 million a year earlier.

Dolphin Cove earned seven per cent less profit at US$1.4 million from revenue of US$4.3 million for its first quarter ending March. Revenue rose five per cent in the quarter.

The directors said the quarterly results were impacted by the date for the observance of Easter, which fell inside the quarter last year but not in the current period.

The marketing campaign around Yaaman drove up expenses by seven per cent, but revenue generated by the park also improved by three per cent.

business@gleanerjm.com