Letters & Opinion

No one shoe fits all, but SRI sandals fit all islands!

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

IT looked and sounded like every Caribbean island’s tourism and hospitality entity is The Best, but that’s not so.

It also sounded like using the same yardstick to measure the various categories up for grabs at the region’s biggest annual tourism awards ceremony – and that was so…

But while it seemed like every popular regional hotel and resort won an award, it was only The Best that topped The Rest, in what was a really-crowded field of competitors, all offering their very-best in a race where only the fittest survives – and with no second or third prize…

That was largely the atmosphere when Saint Lucia hosted the 30th Anniversary celebrations of the World Travel Awards (WTA) Caribbean & The Americas on August 26 at Sandals Grande Saint Lucian Resort and Spa.

The star-spangled affair was attended by delegates from across the Caribbean and The Americas, with host Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre and Tourism Minister Dr Ernest Hilaire raising the curtains for the host nation at the island’s leading Sandals resort.

Indeed, Saint Lucia and Sandals turned out to be the two biggest winners, their feet in the same winning shoes, Sandals winning 13 and Saint Lucia bagging 20 awards in the tightly-contested field among the region’s best tourism service providers.

Prime Minister Pierre extended worthy congratulations to Tourism Minister Hilaire, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) CEO Lorine Charles-St. Jules, their teams and industry partners, after the island took home a sack of goodies – and long before Christmas…

Saint Lucia won three major awards – apart from others won by local entities – in what the SLTA called “a resounding achievement.”

The island was awarded as the ‘Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination’ for the fourteenth (14th) time and it also won the title of ‘Caribbean’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination’ for the second time.

But as far as the SLTA was concerned, “The pinnacle of this year’s success was the coveted title of ‘Caribbean’s Leading Nature Destination’, which it described as “a maiden recognition that underscores Saint Lucia’s unwavering commitment to preserving its natural treasures.”

In addition to the three major awards Saint Lucia won, other local tourism service providers secured the following 17 noteworthy 2023 titles:

Anse Chastanet Resort was named ‘Leading Wedding Resort’, Barefoot Holidays is ‘Leading Destination Management Company’, Cap Maison Resort is the island’s ‘Leading Resort’, Jade Mountain is both ‘Leading Honeymoon Resort’ and ‘Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Honeymoon Resort’, Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa is ‘Leading Beach Resort’, Fond Doux Eco Resort is ‘Caribbean’s Leading Green Resort’, Ladera Resort is ‘Leading Green Resort’, Rabot Hotel by Hotel Chocolat is the island’s ‘Leading Hotel’, Sandals Grande is ‘Saint Lucia’s All-Inclusive Resort’ and ‘Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Resort’, Sixt Car Rental is ‘Leading Car Rental Company’, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort is ‘Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Resort’, The Landings Resort and Spa is ‘Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Suite’, Ti Kaye Resort & Spa is ‘Leading Boutique Resort’, Travel & Leisure Centre is ‘Leading Travel Agency’, Solar Tours & Travel is ‘Leading Tour Operator’, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort is ‘Leading Family Resort’ and Zoëtry Marigot Bay St. Lucia is ‘Leading Luxury Hotel Villa 2023’.

After Saint Lucian tourism and hospitality partners scored a score of wins, Prime Minister Pierre – himself a former successful Tourism Minister – wrote on Facebook: “Let us continue building a sustainable tourism product that we can all be proud of,”

And then there was Sandals…

The region and the world’s leading Caribbean luxury-included holiday resort chain has always been a big winner at all WTA Awards it’s participated in and usually won the best in its categories, not by jest, but simply because it’s always remained a recurring best, by test.

As the region’s leading luxury brand, Sandals Resorts International (SRI) earlier went home annually with three or four major awards – and this year was no different, the brand again taking home much of the bacon from across the region.

SRI was again voted ‘The Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand 2023’, but its satellite properties also helped light its starry skies.

As to be expected, governments and national tourism bodies were dutifully interested in highlighting the collective and individual wins, but where SRI properties exist, they also shone bright.

Apart from its overall brand award, the following SRI properties were also 2023 WTA winners:

Sandals Dunn’s River (Jamaica) won ‘Caribbean’s Leading Luxury All-Inclusive Resort 2023’, as well as ‘Caribbean’s Leading New Resort 2023’, while Sandals Montego Bay was voted ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort 2023’; and SRI’s Beaches Negril was voted ‘Jamaica’s Leading All-Inclusive Family Resort 2023’;

Sandals Grande Saint Lucian (Saint Lucia) won ‘Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Resort 2023’, as well as ‘Saint Lucia’s Leading All-Inclusive Resort 2023’.

In addition: Sandals Grande Antigua won the title for ‘Caribbean’s Most Romantic Resort 2023’; Sandals Grenada was voted ‘Grenada’s Leading Resort 2023’; Sandals Royal Bahamian was voted ‘Bahamas’ Leading All-Inclusive Resort 2023’; Sandals Royal Barbados was voted ‘Caribbean’s Leading Resort 2023’; Sandals Royal Curaçao was voted ‘Curaçao’s Leading All-Inclusive Resort 2023’; and SRI’s Beaches Turks & Caicos was voted ‘Caribbean’s Leading All-Inclusive Family Resort 2023’.

Sandals Resorts International CEO Gebhard Rainer, naturally pleased with the brand’s continuing winning ways, said after SRI and its properties bagged 13 awards: “To be named the Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand for the 30th-consecutive year is such an honour…” that he also saw as “A testament to the incredible team members and valued guests that make up the Sandals family.”

He reminded too, that, “Authentic and exceptional Caribbean hospitality are at the center of all that we do, and we were beyond proud to have been hosting and recognizing the travel industry’s best trailblazers, at our very own Sandals Grande St Lucian.”

WTA 2023 awards rained on Saint Lucia and Sandals, at home and regionally, in ways that remind – once again – that while one shoe will never fit all, SRI’s Caribbean sandals do fit all islands.

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