LUXURY hotel chain, Sandals Resorts International (SRI), is preparing to break ground on its fifth property in Saint Lucia, dubbed Sandals LaSource St. Lucia, next February.
Chairman and Founder of SRI, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, told the media on Saturday that basic architectural work for the new resort, which will be built between Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort and The Landings, has been completed.
With ‘Sandals Grande’, Sandals Regency Golf Resort & Spa, Sandals Halycon and the Saint Lucia Golf & Country Club already in the Sandals portfolio, Sandals LaSource St. Lucia will comprise 330 suites, including Sandals’ Skypool, Rondoval and Swim Up suites, ten restaurants, an expansive Red Lane Spa, wedding lounge, beauty salon, a pool on the seventh floor of the room block, among other amenities.
The company’s catchy numerical phrase, “Stay at one, play at three” will also be upgraded to reflect the chain’s two new additions: the Saint Lucia Golf & Country Club and Saint LaSource St. Lucia.
Stewart recounted coming to Saint Lucia in 1992 following which he ended up acquiring then Cunard Hotel and converting it into Sandals Regency. Years later, Sandals Halcyon and Sandals Grande were added to the Sandals portfolio. Commenting on the soon-to-be-built LaSource, he said he was proud of the company’s achievements on the island.
“We played probably the largest role in Saint Lucia during the transition from banana to tourism. Sandals drove the economy of Saint Lucia more than any other organization,” Stewart said.
Senior Project Manager, SRI, Mark Harding, said the construction phase should run for about 22 months and the project should be completed by December 2019.
“The next 24 months promises to be an excitement-packed (period). During that time, an empty field will be transformed into a magnificent hotel,” he said.
Minister in the OPM with responsibility for Tourism, Dominic Fedee, who said he was employed with the Sandals chain for 16 years, said he was proud to see the resort chain expand its business in the island.
He said when the Sandals brand came to the island in the early 1990s, Saint Lucia was at a very important time in its history. Around that time, he said, the question was whether the island should embrace tourism heavily given that the banana sector was the mainstay of the economy.
Through the Sandals chain and marketing, Fedee said, the island became an increasingly well-sought-after destination for tourists from across the globe. With LaSource set to come on stream in two years, he was optimistic that the island would benefit immensely.
“The LaSource is going to take Saint Lucia and the Caribbean to a next level. A concept that really developed out of Grenada, I think it’s going to do wonders for our destination,” said Fedee.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was present at the media launch, praised the hotel chain for being a pioneer in the tourism industry, which has become the backbone of many Caribbean economies.
“Sandals is truly a Caribbean multinational organization and it has done great work for tourism,” said Holness.
Holness added: “This is serious investment and I’m sure that every government in the region would want to have (Sandals) in their country.”
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet was anecdotal as he recounted the story about how Sandals came to Saint Lucia. He said he played an integral role in wooing Stewart to Saint Lucia, becoming emotional as he explained the subsequent call he got from Stewart that he (Stewart) had bought the Cunard Hotel.
“The greatest gift that Sandals has done for Saint Lucia is that it’s put us on the world map,” Chastanet said.
Chastanet said Sandals has had a major impact in the lives of Saint Lucians who have been employed there as well as those who would have benefited from having loved ones employed there. Saint Lucia, in general, he said, was lucky enough to be able to attract additional investment from the hotel chain.
“The real winners today are the people of Saint Lucia, who have been suffering from an unemployment rate of 25% (generally) and 44% youth employment,” the Prime Minister said. “I was really happy to see that we’re finally moving that number down, with unemployment down to 20% and youth unemployment had dropped to 38%. But these are the kinds of projects that we need that are going to turn things around in Saint Lucia.”
The Sandals chain currently employs over 1,800 employees in Saint Lucia and the fourth property is expected to push that number well over 2,000.