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Concerns raised over illegal rafting on the Rio Grande

Published:Thursday | August 3, 2017 | 3:22 PMGareth Davis Snr

There is concern that the ongoing issue of illegal rafting on Portland's Rio Grande will adversely affect the parish's tourism product.

Chairman of the Destination Assurance Council in Portland, Errol Hanna, says a growing number of raftsmen, including some of those certified by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), have been jostling to ply their trade on the Rio Grande illegally.

Hanna says at least three hotels have been offering their guests rafting tours without approval from the Council or TPDCo.

He says those who offer rafting illegally on the Rio Grande do not usually adhere to the requisite quality and safety standards, which the DAC chairman says could damage the fragile tourism sector in the parish.

However, president of the Raft Captains Association, Lawrence Chisholm, says TPDCo is not doing enough to attract visitors and this is pushing persons to illegally ply their trade as most persons are not getting enough tours to sustain their livelihoods.

He says raftsmen are struggling to survive when they follow the system established by the TPDCo.

For example, Chisolm says rafting tours are sold for US$90 or about J$11,520 per trip down the idyllic river.

However, he says raftsmen only receive about $5,500 from which they have to pay $1,500 for their rafts to be pulled up the river to the raft stand and $300 to be transported by taxi to the starting point at Berrydale after each tour.