A visit will add a day or two extra to vacation plans, which is not only good for us, but is also good for food vendors, hotels, local stores and the general tourism economy
– Rossi Plotluri
Trinidad's tourism industry could be about to get a significant boost, following the launch of the Caribbean's first ever adventure theme park.
Also the first theme park to ever open in Trinidad, the pirate-themed Skallywag Bay represents a significant opportunity for the island nation, which is trying to further develop its tourism sector.
At present Trinidad's tourism share in the Caribbean is small – just 2 per cent of overall annual visitation – with oil production the country's main source of income.
Welcoming just over 400,000 visitors each year, tourism on the island is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, with renewed focus around events, such as the world-renowned Carnival J'ouvert, combined with new tourism-focused developments.
"Tourism for Trinidad has been typically centred around island activities such as beach trips, resorts, hiking, nature tours and diving," said Rossi Plotluri, one of Skallywag Bay's owners, speaking to Attractions Management.
"Carnival brings thousands of people a year according to our islands during February. But beyond that we don't offer enough to sustain the length of stay to more than a day or two.
"We’d like tourists to observe more of our islands, giving them the option to visit a locally-created theme park. We believe a visit will add a day or two extra to their vacation plans, which is not only good for us, but is also good for food vendors, hotels, local stores and the general tourism economy."
Offering families the chance to explore the land of the “Gruffles”, the park, conceptualised and masterplanned by the Imagination Corporation, includes a railroad, bumper boats, climbing wall, three family rides, an elaborate adventure golf course and a children’s play area.
According to Plotluri, the park is a reimagining of the story of Robin Hood, with good pirates taking from bad pirates to give back to the people.
"We took elements of our Caribbean roots and crafted something uniquely original around our own story of pirates and hopefully our presentation will show off our hard work," he said.
"It’s scary building something that people have not done before in this region, especially an original idea that’s not rooted to a conglomerate.
"We hope that this reimagining of an old story resonates enough with many people to draw parallels of these themes to their daily lives."
Opened on 14 July, visitors to the park, located on the Williams Bay waterfront, have been very positive, says Plotluri.
"The general reception has been a lot of open mouths, shocked that we were able to build what we built in their backyard and have it look like something that they’ve never seen in this region before," he said.
"It’s humbling to know that the public also sees our vision and understands the potential of what we are trying to build."
A number of companies and suppliers have been involved in the project’s development since it broke ground, with engineering services provided by Trinidad-based Alpha Engineering, rock work/climbing wall by Createk, onsite rock work by Wavestone Sculpture, train and track by HillCrest Shops and other rides provided by SBF/Visa through Rides 4 U.
Future plans for the park include not only physical expansion, but plans to promote the Skallywag brand across the Caribbean, with things such as a series of published storybooks and possible an animated film. Following the development model of Disneyland and the subsequent Walt Disney World, there are already plans in the works to open a second, much larger park, says Plotluri.
"It's been a great first week, but we need to stay humble, listen to our guests, all the while keeping our eyes on the horizon and ears to the grindstone," he said.
"We've got a number of improvements scheduled for the park. It’s important not to get too overly ambitious, but we dare to dream big and one day when you least expect it, those dreams can become a reality."