Letters & Opinion

Sandals The Grand!

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

As it observed its 40th year in 2022, Sandals Resorts International (SRI) last month offered a sneak peek at big future plans for its Caribbean properties.

In Saint Lucia’s case, its 30 years on the island with most Sandals properties outside Jamaica, SRI Executive Chairman Adam Stewart unveiled plans for SRI’s three luxury hotels and two golf courses on the island — the all-inclusive Sandals Regency La Toc, Sandals Halcyon, Sandals Grande St. Lucian hotels and the Sandals St. Lucia Golf & Country Club at Cap Estate.

If not for a laughable, mind-boggling but serious series of pre-COVID legal delay-tactics by a neighbouring competitor, a fourth hotel (and fifth SRI property) — designed to be by-far the chain’s largest and most-luxurious — could by now have graced the beachfront and skyline at Reduit Beach, near the Sandals Grande on the Pigeon Island Causeway.

SRI was born 40-years-ago to Founding-father and original Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, the Jamaica-born Caribbean-Man-at-Heart who envisioned and led the growth of today’s multifaced business and finance group from the original limited liability company Appliance Traders Limited (ATL).

ATL today sits atop a successful umbrella group that includes SRI, but the Caribbean’s most-successful family business is best-known the-world-over for its unique luxury all-inclusive suites catering for couples and families.

Founded in 1981, SRI is the parent company of some of the travel world’s most recognizable vacation brands, operating 24 properties throughout the Caribbean under four separate brands in Jamaica, Antigua, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Turks & Caicos Islands — and with others to ‘soon come’ in Curacao and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Stewart promised future plans for the island will start later this year: Sandals Halcyon to add 25 new rooms; and Sandals Regency La Toc to get a new village of 20 elite suites he says will be “like a resort within a resort, each with its own golf cart…” as well as “a reimagination of the current golf course offerings…”

The upgrades will create over 350 new construction jobs and 120 more specially-trained butlers – in keeping with SRI’s 2021 promise to create 5,000 Caribbean jobs in five years.

Another visionary regional Sandals investment is working with the University of the West Indies (The UWI) and Florida International University (FIU) to establish a Caribbean tourism university.

SRI has built a formidable ‘Team’ culture that flexes with time and continuously invests in training and rewarding staff to always better the product by simply always being professional-by-nature.

Hence why the company moved-on-up from its humble beginning in Jamaica to where it’s been long branded – at the top of the world in its class.

Sandals’ long relationship with the region extends way beyond tourism and travel, including education and demonstrable corporate leadership in home-grown regional investments.
It’s also the biggest single taxpaying hotel group and the largest tourism employer almost everywhere it operates, its construction projects employing thousands and Sandals-trained employees providing quality service at almost every other non-Sandals hotel.

Stewart said of SRI’s decades-old relationship with Saint Lucia, “My father loved Saint Lucia and like so many, was originally captivated by its beauty… But he quickly came to understand that the real treasure of Saint Lucia is its people — friendly, hardworking and industrious.”

He continued, “SRI’s commitment to working alongside government, to make real the promise of tourism in Saint Lucia, has been unwavering.”

Sandals is a Caribbean institution always worth celebrating, its properties (year-after-year) winning the highest global tourism awards.

Sandals Foundation, its philanthropic arm, has over the past 11 years been reaching-out annually to communities, touching people everywhere it operates, making every Christmas really Happy for the most-needy, also providing free dental and eye-care services with established partners.

As part of its own 40-for-40 anniversary initiative, the Foundation is currently expanding a tailor-made artisan development and training program (that it perfected in Jamaica) to The Bahamas, Curacao, Turks & Caicos islands and Saint Lucia.

In March, 20 craftsmen and women from Canaries, Choiseul, Laborie and Soufriere gained design and production expertise in use of locally-sourced materials to create more authentic and cost-effective products for their markets, building a much-needed bridge to support preservation of the island’s unique culture.

Next year’s 30th anniversary of SRI’s Saint Lucia presence will be a celebration of more ‘Big Things’ for the country, if only because the group has positively changed the face of the island’s tourism offerings, like everywhere else it operates in a region it knows and treats well.

‘Butch’ Stewart was the veritable visionary who built (virtually brick-by-developmental-brick) the foundation for what he led to become the one Caribbean Group that continues to stand out-and-above all others, in ways that always make the entire region proud.

As a family-owned business, SRI also remains ever-true to its commitment to its extended Caribbean family; as a Caribbean brand, it’s stood the test of time at all times; and always pursuing better, it finds the ways to continue growing — up-and-down, top-to-bottom — and earning every congratulatory ‘Bottoms-Up!’

The Hon. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart is a Caribbean citizen honoured at home with the high-ranking Order of Jamaica (OJ) and posthumously (2021) with Saint Lucia’s highest national award, The Saint Lucia Cross.

His vision, ideas and actions created a mega tourism machine that’s admired the-world-over for its ability to create and recreate with innovation and consistency, in a way that simply continuously attracts couples and families from every corner of the globe.

It’s for all these reasons that Adam Stewart and the SRI Team got deserving special mention from Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre in his closing budget presentation last week, when he made it very clear that he’s looking-forward to the sod-turning ceremony at Sandals Halcyon on May 20.

And it’s all possible only because SRI continues to ensure that the Sandals experience remains the quintessential manifestation — today and tomorrow — of everything Bob Marley meant when he composed his everlasting hit ‘One Love!’

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