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Harrison’s Cave, Barbados premier natural attraction, has suffered a fall in patronage in spite of $84 million in improvements.

Minister of the Environment Dr. Denis Lowe warned today, however, that efforts to stimulate activity at the St. Thomas venture would have to be balanced against environmental considerations.

He was speaking in the House of Assembly this morning as members debated an approved a $851,245 supplementary resolution for Harrison’s Cave.

That money was for the first of three quarterly payments for a short term loan. A previous overdraft facility was converted to the loan.

The Christ Church East MP said declining tourist numbers had contributed to declining visits at the cave, and he said the difficulties had extended to the inability to get companies interested in operating the restaurant there.

“The major challenge is that the Harrison’s Cave like any other enterprise in any other country has also been touched by the global economic crisis because we get the major part of our business from visitor arrivals to Barbados,” Lowe said.

“Yes I gave great credit to our minister of tourism, who has been doing an outstanding job, but the fact remains that there are still those challenges that we face and that there are lesser numbers of tourists that we have to work with at the cave than we would have worked with 10 years ago.”

He added that up to now, though, “the greatest challenge has been the disruption caused by the redevelopment, especially when the cave was unadvisedly reopened for the Cricket World Cup”.

“What is important now is that we have to continue now to build our infrastructure, not only in terms of the physical development and so on but … in terms of our techniques, in terms of our approaches to bringing more traffic through the cave,” he noted.

Lowe said the current Administration would continue its effort to overcome the challenges it inherited from the previous Government, but pointed out the nature of the facility meant there would always be challenges in operating it.

“That is one of the perils that you face in terms of physical and civil works when you move forward in a redevelopment programme when you are dealing with a space as geologically sensitive as the Harrison’s Cave’s,” he said.

“In other words, you can’t move in a bulldozer and decide you are going to do excavation to clear off sites, you just can’t rip people out and decide you are going to move them out because they may be in the way.

“You have to treat to these issues with a certain level of sensitivity to ensure that there is no dislocation in the end and the people who are affected by this whole product are persons who deserve our most sincere thoughts and people who deserve our most sensitive actions in terms of moving forward.” (SC)

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