Harrison’s Cave Barbados – $85 million renovation, how many visitors a year? Do the math

UPDATED: September 28, 2010

A little birdy tells BFP that there are problems with the new elevators at Harrison’s Cave and that management is debating on a fix – which seems to indicate more of a problem than just a few bad parts. Our anonymous source didn’t say the nature of the problem so we don’t know if it’s something to do with the windows or mechanism. There was a story going round a while ago about a window problem but we haven’t heard any more on that and the elevators looked fine to us when we visited a while ago.

Can anyone out there provide more information?

Meanwhile, here’s our original story first published on February 20, 2010…

How long will it take to pay for our “Investment”?

EIGHTY-FIVE million dollars!!! Is this figure correct?

Just what does $85,000,000 dollars have to do with reality?

Well, well, well. If one just takes into account the entrance fee, 60 dollars, and forgets such things as salary for the administrators, cave guides, guards, gardeners, maintenance crews and any other running costs, Barbadians will still be paying back for a very long time.

$85 million divided by $60 entry fee = 1,416,666.6 people have to pass through the Cave gates. That means, 56,666.66 people per year for the next 25 years.

Or, on average, 156 people, every single day, weekends, holidays included, arriving at the caves for the next 25 years.

We have never been told what the original work on the caves cost or seen anything on the cost breakdowns of these new multimillions.

What about all those who still hardly have running water? Were The Caves, really, the very best way to spend such money?

I hope, somebody will tell me I am an absolute fool, and explain why I am so. For it seems to me, Barbadians are in for a very rough ride. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Colin L. Beadon

Barbados Free Press editor’s comments…

I have to agree with Colin on this one. I know that the caves are Barbados’ #1 tourist attraction (or so the government says), but…

How much increase in traffic will we see for our $85 million?

Did anyone do up a cost-benefit analysis for the government? Can we, the citizens, see it?

Does anyone know how many visitors a year paid the entry fee to Harrison’s Cave prior to the renovations? Now that the entry fee is raised to $60, will that have a negative impact on traffic? In our earlier article 50% increase in entrance fee to Harrison’s Cave but no re-opening date yet! citizen-journalist Adrian Loveridge said…

“Only a Government entity could consider hiking rates by 50% in the worst global economic recession in more than eighty years…

Yes! there has been a significant investment in the Caves infrastructure, but will glass fronted elevators attract more visitors?

Correct me if I am wrong, but average visitation of the caves has rarely exceeded 150,000 persons per year.

With child, tour operator, local and other discounted rates even if the net admission price of BDS$50 per person is achieved, that is only an annual turnover of $7.5 million before repayment of interest and capital on the loan and operational costs. What contribution are the new shopping and restaurant facilities likely to make?”

The caves received an earlier renovation too just a few years ago. Does anyone remember how much that renovation cost? Does anyone know how many visitors the cave had prior to the earlier renovation?

Don’t forget folks – that’s all borrowed money. How much in interest payments will it take a year to support that debt, let alone pay off the principal?

Secondary consideration: Who made the money?

$85 million is a boatload of money. As a citizen, I’d like to know…

– Who were all the contractors on the renovation. Every one, big to bit player – I want to know the company information for each one.

– Were tenders put out for all materials and services?

– Are any of the cave contractors or subcontractors or “consultants” owned by any elected or appointed government officials or their family members?

– Were any payments made by any contractor or subcontractor for any reason to any elected or appointed government officials or their family members? (They can get really slippery ya know! The subcontractor gets the deal but then hires the son of a public official to do “consulting” for the firm on some unrelated matter like “office automation” or “marketing advice” or other make-believe work. Thus, the money flows from the government to the subcontractor to the family of the government official who influenced the decision to use the contractor etc. Happens all the time ’bout hey.)

With no Integrity Legislation, no Freedom of Information act and no prohibitions about conflicts of interest, it’s pretty well a free-for-all here in Barbados.

After two years of DLP Thompson government, how are you enjoying your promised Integrity, Transparency and Accountability Legislation folks?


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Corruption, Ethics, Freedom Of Information, Offshore Investments, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Tourism

20 responses to “Harrison’s Cave Barbados – $85 million renovation, how many visitors a year? Do the math

  1. RRRicky

    We won’t be getting integrity legislation. I heard the PM on television saying that he won’t do it unless the private sector goes along and allows audits for conflicts, asset declarations.

    What a joke! We have been played like fools by Thompson. There won’t be any integrity or FOI legislation because Thompson set it up to fail.

  2. Adrian Loveridge

    Of the two Caribbean Develoment Bank loans (US$16.87 million in 2006 and US$12.85 million in 2009) the ‘benefits’ were stated as

    ‘The Projects Financial Rate of Return (FRR) and Economic Rate of Return (ERR) are 14% and 16% respectively’.

    How realistic are these promised figures?

    And what are the interest rates payable on these two loans?

  3. Not surprised

    I’m not surprised, look at G.A.I.A. they have spent millions on it, but allocated nothing for maintenance. In the first year the fountains outside in the food court quit and then shortly after the reservoirs were drained, destined to only collect trash now.
    The departure lounge, something is wrong with the air conditioning, instead of looking at fixing it, let the people sweat it out.
    The caves will be even worse, imagine those nice elevators, how long you think they are going to keep working?
    They not only have to make money to pay back the 85 million, but they also need to make enough for operating costs. 85 million would have been way better spent on QEH which is a vital part of Barbados.
    The tourism industry didn’t need a new revamped Harrison’s cave, they need value for their dollar.

  4. reality check

    “I heard the PM on television saying that he won’t do it unless the private sector goes along and allows audits for conflicts, asset declarations.”

    What a smokescreen!!!

    All the major Banks and Companies in Barbados have to have audited statements. There is nothing stopping government requiring high standards of all companies to be in place in Barbados including, private, public and government.

    The major differences between private, public and government is that when private and public run out of money through unsound business practices
    they are finished with the exception of companies like Clico who have friends in high places to bail them out.

    Government on the other hand can just print money with no accountability and Barbadians keep electing the same old, same old unaccountable, worn out politicians who can’t balance their own bank account or run a roti or fruit stand.

  5. moneybrain

    Politicians dont care about the person in the street, they are interested in looting the treasury so most major projects are purely to look legitimate while the true purpose is filling their foreign bank accounts. Build the next prison around parliament(true for most countries)

  6. moneybrain

    I was under the impression that leaders ie thePM, are supposed to lead and develop the legal structure to stop corruption in Govt and business.
    Where have the statesman gone? Westbury cemetry I surmise.

  7. as bad as the previous regime, and may get worse

    Why should we witness these things and then tolerate an increase in the VAT?

  8. Donald Duck, Esq

    As to the increase in VAT recommended by Dr, Robinson, who seemed very quiet pre 2008, I have the following questions:

    >have you evaluated what the reduction in spending is likely to arise with an increase in VAT?
    > are you aware that we are currently in a recession?
    >are you aware that the UK, which is in recession, actually reduced their VAT rate last year for one year in order to put more money in the hands of taxpayers?

  9. Darian

    They should have taken a fraction of that money and put it into the coconut water business. Apparently, coconut water is now a multi-million dollar business.

  10. as bad as the previous regime, and may get worse

    “Let’s have a $2 Million dollar hospital cafe.”


  11. BadBob

    I hate doing math. Give moi a headache.

  12. The Watcher

    I’ve long been saying that tourism and the Tourist Industry in Barbados is nothing short of a money pit!

    As it relates to Harrisons’ Cave, I believe this assertion to be as true in this case as with other tourism based ventures some of which I believe were designed to do nothing more than to flush away the tax dollars of government, and invariably erode the tax base of this country.

    I can’t see how lending agencies, filled with their PhD and Masters possessing professional staff, can honestly see this type of spending as prudent and economically stimulating. After an expenditure of $85M and counting, the cost per visitor would have to be somewhere in the region of $500 per visit in order for any real value to be realized and the loan be serviced appropriately. But if the country tosses away that kind of money on Harrisons Cave and does not use it on infrastructural improvements, i.e. road repairs, or as seed money towards capital works projects, then the net result is the draining of the foreign exchange reserves of the country and the closer we then come to being “owned” by one of these international lending agencies.

    I do not know much about the Cave, its management, day to day operations, revenue intake, expenses or any other pertinent information regarding this entity, but I did meet some of the top brass of the institution not very long ago and I was appalled at the ignorance and pomposity of the leadership. Many of these people were “old bags” who were without a clue when it came to technological matters and they seemed to believe that they were nothing short of genius! So hence I guess these pointless elevators which have been installed and one of which on the opening day was making such a horrible racket and almost seemed like it was about to stall.

    Now why is this all so significant? Well what it does is points to the direction for the future of the institution.

    If the leadership believes themselves to be all knowing, then the gravity of this useless expenditure will quickly bypass them and they will hold out hope that someday, this monumental statue which they have so successfully erected to themselves, will stand testament to their panoramic, insight and un-paralleled intellect.

    All I’ll say about this fiasco in the making is “time to diversify!”

  13. Politically tired

    From the tourist point of view I spoke to a couple who had just come from Harrison’s Cave yesterday. They went only “because we’ve been coming here for 44 years & first went when it was a walk-in path” (taken by a taxi driver, excited at having something ‘new’ to show them).
    They were impressed, loved it etc, BUT said if they’d been at the age when they had their three children with them, they wouldn’t have gone because of the price.

  14. Adrian Loveridge

    With the value of Sterling falling below BDS$3 to One Pound and our largest market the United Kingdom still seeing no signs of recovery, every single piece of our marketing and public relations should be stressing value for money.
    Tourism leaders have been constantly emphasising the spending by visitors is down.

    A 50% increase in any tourism related product at this time is absolute folly.

  15. necessary?

    I agree with the construction of the visitors center as it does facilitate a more *pleasant* waiting experience– especially when there are 8 busloads of cruise tourist waiting to go in the cave. I can’t recall how many can go in at a time now. Forgive the yelling, but:


    This that cannot traverse the steps, handicapped or otherwise, could have simply been discharged at the bottom of the gully, as was the case before. Harrison’s Cave isn’t the Hoover Dam– I think that the powers that be went in for the wow factor on the elevators and it bombed miserably!!!

  16. yatinkiteasy

    After the “renovation ” the lighting in the Cave has been considerably reduced, making it not nearly as attractive or impressive as it was before. I asked the tour guide about it, and she admitted that they had changed the lighting to be more “cave friendly”…what the hell does that mean?

  17. rasta man

    It would also be interesting to find out the cost of the recently held Women’s boxing tournament and what were the benefits to Barbados

  18. BadBob

    Rasta Man,
    Forget the cost. We found out who can thump aside the head.

  19. St George's Dragon

    A significant part of the cost of the renovation was for the installation of a huge array of photovoltaic panels to power the cave from sunlight.
    I think I am right in saying this was a 150 KW system. That would have cost at least $10,000/KW so more than $1,500,000.
    I know that part of the concept behind the cave is being sustainable but could this money not have been used better?
    $1,500,000 would have paid for at least 150,000 low energy lamps to be disributed free to Barbadians. That would have saved far more energy and imported oil.

  20. Anonymous

    The only place that I know have the prison next to the parliament is in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.