A quarter of a century ago when Jamaican Butch Stewart purchased Hotel La Toc and planted the Sandals brand here, there and then marked the beginning of an everlasting love affair with the Helen of the West.
La Toc was soon followed by Sandals Halcyon and Sandals Grande, featuring the William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom, so named after the popular US President who delivered a key address there.
The three Sandals properties here are landmarks on the island’s tourism map, where guests can ‘Stay at one and play at all three’ – an option available nowhere else. But that’s not the only option Sandals’ guests have here – or at any other Sandals anywhere. Indeed, the range of pleasure options can easily be listed from A to Z at what has become to the veritable face of Caribbean Tourism today.
In just three decades, Sandals has become to and for Caribbean Tourism what Google and Facebook have become to and for Brand USA.
Just over a week ago, the Sandals Grande hosted its annual Caribbean Overdrive Tour at Sandals Grande, where the local press was invited to participate in perhaps the most lavish, well-organized, feasting and learning experience any corporate entity has staged on this island – ever!
Everybody who is anybody in Sandals Resorts International (SRI) was on hand with representatives from every key department in every country where Sandals operates, along with the top reps of the thousands of marketing people selling Sandals worldwide, together with staff from all three Saint Lucia resorts, as well as from the call centers, plus vacation planners and representatives of every ancillary company Sandals does business with here.
The Sandals chieftains laid out — in plain video and power-point-assisted sight — the length and breadth, depth and width of the Sandals brand globally, which is still being taken too much for granted as just another Caribbean company and not as the Number One Caribbean Tourism brand that it is.
Just think of it: Anyone who travels anywhere can see a Sandals ad anytime and in several languages on international TV news; in the UK, USA and Canada, Sandals billboards line more streets and Sandals wrap-around taxis ply more roads than any other hotel advertising campaign does on the planet; Sandals offers the highest vacation savings rate anywhere; and its list of ‘first’ and ‘only’ achievements is almost endless.
Just consider that Sandals has wed over a quarter of a million people (yes, over 250,000 couples) right here in the Caribbean – and you get the point.
The Sandals brand is the only Caribbean one of its kind – not just a national brand that’s popular across the region, but a regional brand present across the Caribbean like no other. Sandals staff easily gain regional and international experience and reputation. A Sandals-trained employee can work at any other hotel anywhere else – and still be re-hired because of certainty of ability and dependability.
The local press learned, perhaps for the first time, that Sandals has what was described as ‘the largest marketing team in the world’. Incredible and true, the Sandal marketing machine is an ever-powered 24/7 mechanism that mechanically sells the Caribbean to the world, without end.
As with any global corporate entity operating permanently in territories with economies entirely unable to do without its annual contributions to their treasuries, there will be ups and downs in negotiations with governments that come and go. It’s both normal and natural.
But, as was seen and heard at Sandals Grande that Friday evening, what we have here but don’t all see is a global brand with an unending love affair with Saint Lucia that continues to grow – and in overdrive.
Yes, if ever there was one Caribbean Brand, Sandals is it!