IF ever there was a case for the natural order of things to be allowed to flow, it’s just happened at the Caribbean’s biggest and most successful tourism brand entity, Sandals Resorts International (SRI), where a son has easily replaced his father, to continue walking miles in Dad’s shoes.
Consider the iconic Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, who everyone considered irreplaceable – until he had to be replaced. However, if ever there was a natural successor, then it would be his son, Adam.
‘Butch’, Founding Chairman and CEO, built the Sandals house from scratch – from one hotel in Jamaica’s Montego Bay in 1981 to 16 today in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica and Saint Lucia, with plans to expand soon into Curacao.
He also built the Beaches family brand with properties in Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos Islands — and a fourth coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines – as well as the Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts.
Long before ‘Butch’ Stewart built the Sandals Family, he established Appliance Traders Limited (ATL), which, under the Founding Father’s guidance, grew into the ATL Group (now one of the largest private sector groups in the region).
Stewart soon set his eyes on the hotel business, interestingly, not because he planned on becoming a hotelier, but to earn foreign exchange to help support ATL.
And the rest is history — that single hotel soon giving birth to SRI, which has kept the Caribbean tourism flag flying high on the world stage, winning the world’s top All-Inclusive Hotel Awards at the annual World Travel Awards (WTA) for the past 25 consecutive years – and for over 20 years with the Beaches family brand.
But while all eyes were on ‘Butch’ over all those years, the visionary Jamaican had both his eyes fixed on the future: building the group and broadening the brand, but also planning SRI’s safe future.
In 2005, the then 25-year-old Adam was appointed Deputy Chairman and CEO — and soon began stamping his mark on the Sandals empire by establishing the Sandals Foundation and Sandals Corporate University, as well as Island Routes, the tour operator feeding the group’s properties.
In fact, the younger Stewart has also developed his own impressive CV over the past few years: a recipient of the Order of Distinction in Jamaica, where he’s also Chairman of Jamaica’s Tourism Linkages Council.
Following his dad’s footsteps, the younger Stewart has also slowly built his own empire, partnering with the international Marriott brand to set-up the AC Hotel in the Jamaican capital Kingston, as well as being the driving force behind bringing the Starbucks franchise to Jamaica.
The AC Kingston, Jamaica’s first business lifestyle hotel, was named the Caribbean’s Leading New Hotel 2020 at the 27th World Travel Awards.
In 2010, Adam was named the Caribbean’s World Travel and Tourism Personality of the Year and in 2012 received the World Travel Award’s Rising Star award.
Earlier, in 2015, Adam was named Hotelier of the Year by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) — and that same year received the same award from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
The World Travel and Living Awards (WTLA) also named the younger Stewart Caribbean Personality of the Year 2015.
Indeed, in the past three years, Adam has been the face of SRI, leading negotiations with the Turks and Caicos Islands government following a recent controversial issue there, as well as in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (last December) for the new Beaches property to be established in the multi-island Caribbean state.
Adam Stewart has therefore transitioned into new SRI Executive Chairman and CEO after having been groomed and schooled on the job over 15 years, working in all major departments at almost every property, to ensure SRI always takes better care for the thousands of rooms in ‘The House That Butch Built.’
Fully ready to follow the Founding Father’s footsteps, Adam stepped into his dad’s larger shoes on January 19, choosing instead to wear sandals on the beaches, as he continues spreading his dad’s footprints in the sands of Caribbean time.
It’s easy and safe to say that ‘No one can walk in Butch Stewart’s shoes’ and Adam himself confesses, in deep humility, that he simply cannot.
But if Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart taught Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world one lesson, it’s ‘Never Say Never!’