Unprecedented Growth Planned for Sandals Resorts

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Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), expressed his hope for the future and the health of the revival of the regional tourism industry.

Stewart’s anticipation is bolstered by the fact that Sandals Royal Curacao, the resort chain’s 16th resort in the region, has just opened.

Stewart claimed that despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak, things are looking up in an extensive interview on popular show “Influencers” with Andy Serwer of Yahoo Finance.

“I think they are and I certainly think they were before the pandemic,” he noted.

“How’s business now?” was a question. According to Stewart, Sandals‘ occupancy and rate levels for 2019 have already been exceeded. According to what he said, the station’s revenues in September and October were unprecedented.

The travel industry is “booming”, he said, “especially with social groups, weddings and incentive trips”.

Stewart says this illustrates how, post-COVID, people have a deeper understanding of the importance of travel in daily life.

“Some call it the revenge traveler, but it hasn’t been a blip. Looking forward to 2023, we’re way ahead of where we were in 2019,” he told Serwer .

The Sandals chief admitted worries, such as the Russian-Ukrainian war and rising inflation, are affecting a variety of industries, including the cruise and automotive sectors.

Stewart noted, “What that forces you to do is work on your relationships more…and that requires a different level of infrastructure. We run a team that’s about 25% larger today than it was in 2019, like-for-like, just to get all the inventory in circulation…to get all the items that we can’t source locally.

He pointed out that there are difficulties in obtaining certain products even locally, such as the lack of glass bottles.

Meanwhile, Stewart admitted: “The pandemic has shattered these tourism-based economies. The airline industry (has been devastated). It was inconceivable to come out of 2019 which was the best year ever for tourism”.

Stewart pointed out that some of the gross domestic products of countries in the region are 90% based on tourism to underscore the magnitude of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of Jamaica, the CEO of Sandals pointed out that tourism accounts for 50% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

“When we got the phone call to say that the airports were closing and international flights and connectivity (were suspended) it was an inconceivable conversation that we just had to sit and digest for a moment and unfortunately we had to close our hotels,” he noted.

Stewart pointed out that Sandals has kept its employees in place despite the drop in visitor numbers.

“We knew it wouldn’t last forever. We didn’t have a crystal ball, but we knew that when she (finished) the infrastructure, the magic of what got us here had to be intact, so we kept our whole team together”.

According to Stewart, Sandals is a driving force behind the local tourism recovery.

“Other industries have fallen behind and I think some of the government infrastructure is probably still a bit behind to get everything back in place and move forward,” he added.

He admitted to Serwer that it was hard to keep everyone working when the hotel was losing money.

“Yes it was. My father was still with us. We lost my father on January 4, 2021. My father was suffering from his illness at the time but he was relentless in his love for the Caribbean and its people. He felt that it was his duty as a kind of father not only to my family but to the organization and he was relentless in wanting to find a way (to keep the workers in their jobs)”.

Stewart cited Sandals’ low leverage as the reason it was possible to do so. He claimed his father donated the funding to make it possible.

“Not only did we do that (keep the workers employed), but we donated an entire compound to the Jamaican government for free for over a year as a COVID center for COVID-positive cases, which was then transformed into a vaccination center”.

In addition, Sandals purchased 40 ventilators, donated more than 300 field trips to frontline staff and, if needed, provided hotel staff transportation to multiple islands and hotel rooms for many doctors and nurses battling the COVID epidemic.

Stewart noted, “Our participation has been intense. He was on the front line in every country.

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