Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Marc Melville, is more committed than ever to investing in tourism as a key driver of the growth in the sector and national development.
Widely regarded as a visionary and one of tourism’s most influential minds, the 52-year-old, who heads the biggest attraction company in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, says the ongoing pandemic has given Chukka a renewed sense of optimism in the sector and the country’s resilience.
He told the Jamaica Information Service that, when COVID-19 took its toll on the tourism industry, rather than going into a wait-and-see mode, Chukka made the decision to invest and to upgrade, always believing that “one day we will be back to normality” and “the tourism industry will emerge bigger and better than it has ever been”.
“We at Chukka have tried to lead from the front and that can be seen in our infrastructural development at Good Hope, Trelawny and Sandy Bay, Hanover. Also, we have formed partnerships with Island Village (Ocho Rios) and Appleton (St Elizabeth),” he noted.
Melville said the company “had to make some tough decisions” to be able to retain its staff, many of whom had dedicated several years in helping to build and expand the Chukka brand in Jamaica and throughout the region.
“First and foremost, we kept most of our staff, some on a rotation basis, in a spirit of faith and goodwill… knowing how important they are to the overall success of Chukka and also our plans for the future,” Melville said.
“We are talking about scores of employees locally and more at locations across the Caribbean,” he pointed out.
It is for those bold decisions, in the interest of national development, that Melville was, on National Heroes Day (October 17), conferred with the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) by the Government of Jamaica.
He was recognised for his contribution to tourism, which includes revolutionising the island’s attractions sector.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said Melville and the Chukka team continue to be “reliable partners” and a major credit to Jamaica’s tourism offerings.
“Marc is indeed a visionary and a man on a mission and whose contribution to tourism over the years is immeasurable. He is deserving of this national award and we here at the Ministry of Tourism continue to wish him and his team all the best in their future endeavours,” Bartlett said.
Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President (JHTA) Clifton Reader, who nominated Melville for the national honour, hails him as a bold leader.
“Marc’s decisive leadership could not have gone unnoticed or lost on anybody who had been paying attention during the heights of the pandemic in the first two years,” Reader said.
“Epitomising the meaning of the term leadership, he made some bold moves along with his team, always putting his country first and also his group of dedicated employees,” he added.
WELL DESERVED HONOUR
Other stakeholders, such as craft traders, tour and transport operators, shop and attraction owners say that Melville is deserving of the national recognition.
“Long time coming and well deserved,” Sanju Chatani, owner of the Taj Mahal Plaza in Ocho
Rios, St Ann, said.
“Marc has successfully steered his company through turbulent times, and today, Jamaica’s tourism is in a better position because of many of the decisions he has made,” he noted.
For the Chukka CEO, though, it has always been about teamwork, professionalism and a commitment to “being the best that we can be”.
Said Melville: “It was not and has never been a one-man show.”
He added that the national award could never have come about without having the backing of “some of the most dedicated group of workers you will ever see”.
Founded in 1983, Chukka has locations in Ocho Rios, Falmouth, St Elizabeth, Montego Bay, and Sandy Bay.
In 2019, the company was awarded the title of Tour Operator of the Year, out of 350 operators, by Carnival Cruise Line (CCL).
The company, through its Chukka Foundation, is also involved in several charitable causes, notably in education.
With more than 800 employees locally and 1,000 more at locations across the Caribbean, Chukka Caribbean Adventures is also indisputably Jamaica’s biggest attraction company and a major pull factor for the country’s recovering tourism sector.
The company operates more than 60 adventure tours for all ages in Jamaica, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
This includes horseback riding, zip-line canopy, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safari, river tubing/kayaking, river rafting, waterfalls, power snorkeling, catamaran, among others.
“Chukka takes pride in showcasing the natural beauty of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean through unique and sensational experiences, while providing opportunities for local residents to earn a living,” Melville said.
– Jamaica Information Service