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Aerial Tramway Under Way

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006 - An aerial tramway under way in Chassin promises to change the landscape, create jobs and add to the diversity of the island’s tourism product.

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.

It is being 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.

Last week, a Government delegation, including Tourism Minister Philip J. Pierre and Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities Minister Felix Finisterre – who is also the Parliamentary representative for Babonneau – toured the facility, which is nearing completion.

Mr. Pierre said the tramway “will certainly become a unique tourist attraction” for the island.

Mr. Finisterre, for his part, welcomed “the new job opportunities” presented by the project, including young people from the surrounding agricultural areas who have educated themselves “making the transition to new jobs for which they were trained.”

Both Cabinet Ministers had praise for the project, which will cater for both local and overseas clients.
The land on which the project is located is owned by the Forestry Department and was made available to the investors 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. To this end, an environmental head tax will be charged to each client, the proceeds of which will go back into forest conservation.

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. On Monday, February 13, 2006, 40 aspiring tour guides will commence a 4-week training programme at the Fond Assau Multipurpose Centre.

Towers for the tramway were assembled on the Fond Assau playing field ahead of construction and on completion each tramway will be able to carry eight persons and a guide.

Rainforest Sky Rides runs a similar tramway operation in Dominica, which is called Dominica Rainforest Aerial Tram and is located in the village of Laudat.

Both the Dominica and the St. Lucia operations will be marketed, managed and head-quartered in St. Lucia, and a local top management team of 12 persons – accountants, marketing personnel, site management, mechanical, on-site trainers – will be appointed to manage the two operations.

The company also operates two other similar aerial tramway projects in Costa Rica, one on the Atlantic coast and the other on the Pacific coast of the Central American state.

Herena Cao, the Chief Executive Officer of the investing company, said last July that St. 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 that 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 St. Lucia’s tourism project even more.”

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