How did you grow your business into one of the largest tourism attractions in Jamaica?
STAFFORD BURROWES We opened in 2001, and we were extremely fortunate to have opened the same week that Sea World opened its facility in Orlando. There was even a Super Bowl ad that ran that year. The first cruise ship that came to port booked us out. We started with four dolphins on loan from Mexico City. We are extremely concerned with the wellbeing of the animals. Before starting the business, I swam with dolphins in numerous locations, from the Bahamas to Honduras. We made the lagoon much larger than the specifications required. At the moment, we have 34 dolphins. The dolphins began to reproduce, and we were pleased because it means that they are happy and safe.
JOHN BYLES We are a nature adventure operation; therefore, we look for what is the best of nature, our history, and culture. From there, we put together a team to showcase what it is we see. Usually, we do it in some sort of adventure activity. We also do tours that are more culture based. There are few countries with such geographic diversity as Jamaica. We have nine locations here that are spread out geographically. Our customers are divided 50-50 between cruise and hotel sectors. For the hotel sector, we sell from the internet or with destination management companies (DMC). Foreign tour operators such as Expedia, Orbitz, and so on also sell our packages.
What are the challenges and opportunities for the future?
SB I see Dolphin Cove growing in Jamaica in line with the increase in the number of hotels being built and increased cruise ship passenger arrivals. Our tourism sector here is growing at a great rate. There will be about 10,000 more rooms by 2022, and we will definitely need to expand our facilities and put in new facilities when it is the right time. I also see Dolphin Cove expanding into the English-speaking part of the Caribbean; that is what we are working on. I am pleased with the association that we have with Dolphin Discovery as a company, and together, Dolphin Cove will expand much faster than if we were to do this alone.
JB From the perspective of business growth in Jamaica, we have found that the propensity for cruise guests to do a tour is much higher than for the hotel segment. It is more difficult to attract hotel guests to do tours and explore beyond their resorts. When guests come by cruise, they are already aware of all that Jamaica has to offer. From that point of view, if we were to see growth in the form of tourism in the linkages, it would require more people coming to Jamaica to understand what the country has to offer. We are working with the hotels and the Jamaica Tourist Board.
What is your outlook for the sector and business?
SB We opened a second location called Dolphin Cove Montego Bay, and it has done extremely well. We were also approached by Operadora Palace Resorts, a Mexican company that had dolphins at its facility in Cancún and wanted to add dolphins in Jamaica. We opened there about two years ago, and it is thriving. We currently have three locations in Jamaica and seek to add another. We ended 3Q2017 with a net profit of 11% above 2016. This is a significant growth for the company, and we look forward to more business here as well. The company has a bright future, and we intend to continue the brand in St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos.
JB The outlook for Jamaica is positive. There are 6,000 more hotel rooms coming. We know cruise lines are adding more ships and committing those to the Caribbean. We expect to naturally see more ships coming to Jamaica as well as other regional destinations. The Jamaica brand is strong in the market base. Our job is to make sure that people have the unique, authentic experience of Jamaica while they are here. We have a full-time trainer constantly working with our team of guides and so on. We monitor that closely to make sure that we are remaining relevant while doing what we feel is our purpose, to give people a unique, authentic Jamaican experience.