CHUKKA Caribbean Adventures is augmenting its presence in the experiential tourism market with the creation of the Chukka Island Village Outpost at Island Village in Ocho Rios, St Ann.
Located just a few minutes from the Ocho Rios cruise ship pier, Island Village is a mall that offers a mix of retail, entertainment, and food and beverage options to tourists and locals alike, including the beachfront Margaritaville restaurant and bar.
Chukka Caribbean's outpost lies at Island Village's south end at the corner of Main and Turtle River streets with a challenge course overhanging a Turtle River tributary designated for rafting. A guest drop-off spot adjacent to the challenge course provides access to the experience corner where Chukka Caribbean offers "a taste of Ocho Rios" in one location, according to Chukka Caribbean Adventures CEO Marc Melville.
"Island Village has been reborn with four major pillars — the experience corner, food and beverage corner, retail corner, and the beach," he told the Jamaica Observer on a tour of the facility last week.
The reconfiguration of the experience corner, which includes the setup of the nature challenge, has a price tag of US$1 million, which Melville revealed is being financed by a JMMB Bank credit facility.
In addition to the nature challenge, the experience corner allows both tourists and locals alike to enjoy coffee tastings at the Jablum tasting room, rum tasting at the Appleton tasting bar, a seven-minute Discover Jamaica documentary, or shopping at Pure Chocolate Company and cannabis outlet Jacana. The first two are the result of partnerships between Chukka Caribbean and the respective companies.
The experience corner also boasts a photo lounge, boutique gift shops and a grab and go lounge.
"The village outpost is a concept for locations that are on a main street, on a tourism corridor usually close to a cruise ship pier or the epicentre of a tourist town," Melville explained, adding that the company has three other concepts — Ocean Adventure Outpost, Eco Adventure and Historic Hub.
"We have partnered with Island Village to turn this into a Chukka hub, so all the persons — whether cruise ship, local, villa, or resort — who are doing a Chukka tour…this area serves as check-in where you sign your waivers and dispatch," he added.
The reference to Island Village as a hub is no misnomer, the experience corner serving as a gateway for Chukka clients interested in ziplining over Dunn's River, tubing on the White River or embarking on a catamaran tour.
Melville said Chukka Caribbean Adventures has plans to roll out the concept in other Caribbean territories where Chukka operates. In fact, he told Business Observer that Harrison Caves in Barbados already offers ziplining, a Mount Gay rum tasting experience, and a Discover Barbados documentary. The company is in the process of completing construction of a restaurant and swimming pool in the Eastern Caribbean island.
With a variety of immersive experiences, the CEO is billing the Island Village hub as a one-stop that caters to a family with different needs. Moreover, given the 45-minute drive on the North Coast Highway from Kingston, he encourages families making that journey from Kingston and other parts of Jamaica to take advantage of Chukka's US$99 special rate for locals to "stay and play all day".
Over in the western end of the island at its Ocean Outpost in Lucea, Hanover, Chukka Caribbean Adventures is building out its farm-to-table tour to complement its menu of services which include ATV and horseback riding, catamaran tours, snorkelling, zipline and an infinity pool.
"So because the property is 160 acres, there's a lot of space to do different things," Melville said.
He underscored that what has driven the success of the company for the last 30 years is the "harmonious relationships" it has created within the rural communities it operates, especially with subsistence farmers, which forms part of its environmental, social and governance framework. This is not limited to Jamaica, but also includes the Dominican Republic and Barbados.
"The guests go in one of our adventure trucks and they meet the farmer. The farmer explains the entire process and tell them what his day is like," the CEO explained.
Food purchased from the subsistence farmers are then taken back to the attraction and is prepared in Jamaican style for tourists. This, Melville said, allows them to understand the whole story of agro-tourism — from the tour guides to the farmer to the chef, and with some information provided on the menu.
On this note, he said, "We want to be unapologetically Caribbean."
"The thing about being a successful Caribbean business is that the minute you try to copy what your visitors can get in a First World country, you start to enter a zone where you can't compete," Melville continued.
While Chukka Caribbean has seen an increase due to a rise in demand for experiential tourism, the CEO pointed out that there has also been growth in local patronage, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These two factors presented an opportunity for the company to reimagine its product and take advantage of current growth opportunities, Melville disclosed.