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Babonneau Aerial Tram Project Under Way

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Friday July 29, 2005 - Saint Lucia is set to add a new feature to its tourism product through an aerial tramway which is about to be established in the north of the island. ‘Rainforest Sky Rides’ is a US$4 million venture in the Babonneau area to establish a tramway similar to one that exists in neighbouring Dominica.

Herena Cao, who is the company’s Chief Operating Officer for the Caribbean, says the proposed tramway will be constructed on 1,200 acres of government land in the mountainous area and it will take clients on a 90-minute ride above and between the surrounding mountains.

The top company official disclosed that the land on which the project is to be located is owned by the Forestry department and has been made available through a Government lease. The company entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government to ensure the forest remains in a pristine state, consistent with Government’s policy of protection of the forests.

Government has offered a flat lease, but an environmental head tax will be charged to each client, the proceeds of which will go back into forest conservation. Ms Cao says clients – visitors and locals alike – “will be able to take the scenic aerial tram ride from Tete Chemin in the Chassin area to Piton Flor and La Sourciere, high above the area’s often misty forest.”

Towers for the tramway are already being assembled on the Fond Assau playing field in preparation for construction. The company behind the project is already screening job applicants.

A three-day job fair started at the Fond Assau Multi Purpose Complex on Wednesday to interview persons from the general area interested in employment on the project. According to Ms Cao, the company intends to hire between 60 and 75 workers in the construction process, which is expected to last until year’s end.
Among the skills needed for the tramway project are drivers, mechanics, lift operators, cleaners, senior tour guides (who can speak a foreign language) and junior tour guides (who speak only English and Kweyol).

The job fair, which continues until Friday, takes place between 2:00pm and 6:00pm daily and was organized by the company to ensure applicants are personally assessed. The investors expect the project will be completed by December 2005 and it will add a new feature to the continuing expansion of St. Lucia’s increasingly diversified tourism product.

Ms Cao said her company runs the Dominica tramway operation, which is called Dominica Rainforest Aerial Tram and is located in the village of Laudat. Her company also operates two other similar aerial tramway projects in Costa Rica, one on the Atlantic and the other on the pacific coast of the Central America, state.

She said Saint Lucia was chosen for the project “because this is an island where tourism is booming and with the perfect combination we require for our parks.” Ms Cao identified the perfect combination as “a diverse rainforest and a very good record for hotel stay-over and cruise ship visitors.”

She said she had “no doubt that the project will also help boost Saint Lucia’s tourism project even more.”

Meanwhile, the aerial tramway project as been welcomed by the Parliamentary Representative for Babonneau, Minister for Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities, the Honourable Felix Finisterre.

The Minister, who is also a former Executive Director of the St. Lucia Heritage Tourism Programme, says: “I am very pleased that Saint Lucia was chosen and that my constituency of Babonneau was selected for the project. “I am sure this new feature will add to our long list of heritage tourism projects and to the expansion of our diversified tourism base.”

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