Castries, Saint Lucia, Thursday, November 18, 2021: The man at the head of the world’s leading all-inclusive luxury hotel brand highlighted the wisdom of the continued expansion of the tourism industry in the Caribbean and around the world at this time – and commended stakeholders for refusing to be intimidated by the debilitating effects of the covid pandemic19.
Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), also recognized the unique challenges of the cruise industry during the pandemic and congratulated everyone in the industry for overcoming what he described as “l ‘one of the most complicated situations in the history of travel’.
Speaking to Jamaica’s Observer yesterday after attending Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld last Friday’s conference (November 12), the ISR Executive Chairman said:
“Tourism does not work without the whole ecosystem, so when the cruise is not there and the visits do not take place and there is no back-and-forth movement , something is missing.”
According to Stewart, 2019 was “the best year to travel to the Caribbean, period.” He added that the “unthinkable” – the outbreak of the novel coronavirus – happened in March 2020. “Travel exposes us to the world. It’s this incredible thing that’s hard to explain, and we have it. lost, “said Stewart. The CEO of SRI said he was grateful to the travel counselors” who have supported our organization and allowed so many people to thrive and prosper in my part of the country called the Caribbean”.
He recalls telling cruise industry delegates that at the start of the pandemic early last year, he and his late father, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, decided that SRI would embark on an expansion. aggressively, by acquiring properties in Jamaica, St Vincent and Curacao.
Last year, Sandals announced plans to bring its Beaches brand to St Vincent – an initiative that promises expansive economic growth for the multi-island state – as well as the acquisition of a new property in Curacao. .
Stewart said that after his father died, he and his siblings got together to decide where to take the business. Reflecting on their options, he shared, “We could sell the business, we could take a break and do nothing, or we could double down. “We have decided to take this business to the moon and double in size over the next 10 years.” He said while making Zoom calls home in Jamaica, he recalled watching the “Sky Is Falling” reports on the cable news. “In my home office, to my right, I was looking at a garden and to my left, I was looking at the Caribbean Sea,” he said. “The sky had never been clearer,” he added, “the sand had never been whiter and the water had never been bluer. “So from the start our organization made a political decision that this too should pass – and all we are going to do on a daily basis is to resume travel to the Caribbean. “
Riding the COVID wave
SRI was the first Caribbean hotel group to declare its intention to remain open and has pledged to ride the COVID wave after the pandemic was declared in March 2020.
“Butch” Stewart had personally assured thousands of SRI employees and governments across the Caribbean region that its Sandals and Beaches brands would use the crisis to modernize their properties for better days.
In the nine months since the onset of the pandemic, SRI has put in place internal mechanisms to protect visitors and staff at all of its Caribbean properties, while continuing to win global awards as the best supplier. of services in the luxury category of the industry.
Stewart passed away in January 2021 and his son, Adam, led the IRS through the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic.
More Jamaica hotels
In April, Sandals announced the addition of three new hotels to its Jamaican portfolio, creating more than 2,000 jobs and 900 rooms, bringing the number of hotels in Jamaica to 14, with a room capacity of just over 3,400.
The properties – the former Jewel Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios, the Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort & Waterpark and the Jewel Dunn’s River – were acquired last year.
Jewel Runaway Bay will be transformed and operated under the Beaches brand, while Jewel Dunn’s River will be “sandalized” – upgraded to award-winning brand standards – and operated under its old name, Sandals Dunn’s River.
The beachfront property adjacent to the return of Sandals Dunn’s River will be developed and operated under the Sandals Royal Dunn’s River name, which Stewart says will “set the bar” in terms of hospitality in the hotel’s 40-year history. chain.
Stewart said the property “holds special significance to our family as its story is the story of Jamaica’s evolution as a travel powerhouse.” Noting that his father “grew up on Ocho Rios beach,” Stewart said, “This hotel, the first of its kind when it was built in the 1950s, captured the glamor of the era and sparked his [Butch Stewart’s] imagination. “When it became available, we jumped at the chance to bring the hotel back into the Sandals fold.”
Commitment to Saint Lucia
SRI owns four properties in St. Lucia – Sandals Grande, Sandals La Toc, Sandals Halcyon and Sandals Cap Estate Golf & Country Club – and just before the pandemic hit, SRI had planned a fourth hotel that would have been the largest in its category. whole string. This latest plan has been disrupted by COVID and other factors, but remains on the table.
Adam Stewart led a strong delegation from Sandals to a meeting with new Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre in August – days after his swearing in – where he reaffirmed the IRS’s commitment to continue working with the government of Saint Lucia to develop the island’s tourism product.
Regional expansion …
SRI remains committed to its earlier promises to seek major investment opportunities in the region, which is expected to create thousands of jobs. Earlier this year, SRI said it plans to create 5,000 new tourism jobs in the region over the next five years – a goal to which Stewart says the Caribbean’s leading hotel and tourism brand remains committed.
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