Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Dolphin Cove Limited has been granted a business licence to operate as an attraction in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), but it still needs planning permission to develop its marine park.
The expected US$3 million investment will see Dolphin Cove joining other Jamaican investors, including Sandals Resorts International; Islands Entertainment, operators of Margaritaville Caribbean; and CHUKKA Caribbean, in the British territory.
In a media release last Thursday, the Turks & Caicos government announced that Dolphin Cove had revealed "ambitious plans to open its fifth Swim With The Dolphins Park in the Cooper Jack area of Providenciales".
open for business
Dolphin Cove has previously disclosed that it is expanding in the Caribbean but has consistently declined comment on the venues under consideration.
If approved, the TCI attraction should open for business in Spring 2013.
"This project has been granted a business license to operate, but it still requires to complete all of the necessary planning and environmental impact studies," said the Turks & Caicos government.
Dolphin Cove is in ongoing discussions with Department of Agriculture's Environmental and Maritime Affairs officials to ensure that it complies with planning and the highest welfare standards. The Jamaican company is seeking to lease Crown lands for the venture.
TCI said Dolphin Cove is already in compliance with animal-welfare standards required by the United States relating to marine mammals in captivity.
"It is now seeking to extend this world-class service and unforgettable experience of interacting with these amazing marine mammals to the Turks & Caicos Islands."
"This is potentially a very exciting development for the Turks & Caicos Islands," said Governor Ric Todd. "It is further confirmation of what we already know — that the Turks & Caicos Islands is a very attractive place in which to do business. The economy here is in good shape. Gross Domestic Product was over 4 per cent last year, the envy of many nations around the world. Indeed, both inward investors and locally based firms are continuing to invest here," he said.
Although still subject to a number of permit approvals, the authorities say the Dolphin Cove development would significantly complement the tourism product in Turks & Caicos.
Other recent activity in the Turks & Caicos includes: a US$20m investment by fuel supplier Rubis; expansion of Amanyara resort; Beaches Resorts' US$4m refurbishment and maintenance programme; and telecoms Digicel's investment of US$8 million in its infrastructure.
In addition, GU-Med medical school is to pump US$8.4 million into its operation; the Providenciales International Airport is undergoing a US$10m upgrade; and a new US$15m private aircraft facility is also under construction at the airport.
Dolphin Cove, which is principally owned and managed by the Burrowes family, has been in operation for 12 years.
With investments in Grand Cayman, as well as Ocho Rios, St Ann and Point, Hanover in Jamaica, the marine park two weeks ago earned the award for the region's 'leading adventure excursion' from World Travel Awards.