Calling tourism “the greatest industry in the world,” the executive chairman of Sandals today outlined a future highlighted by evolution and innovation to keep the Caribbean’s best-known hotel chain cutting edge and remain the regional hospitality leader.
Adam Stewart, Sandals Executive Chairman, unveiled a new vision called Sandals 2.0 as he addressed nearly 500 travel agents and advisors from the US, Canada and the Caribbean during a meeting of ASTA, their professional association, at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, Bahamas.
Recalling the exact moment in March 2020 when he got the call that COVID was shutting down worldwide travel, Stewart said “it felt like the sky was falling.”
“I was sitting in my home on the beach in Jamaica and I looked outside to my left,” he said, describing the magic that makes the Caribbean so desirable. “The sky had never been so blue, the water had never been so clear, the sand had never been so white, the view had never been so beautiful and the word resilience popped into my mind.” Never for a moment, he continued, did he buy into “the false narrative” that travel would not rebound. “We had a team of 15,000 people looking at us and saying, ‘What now?’ We went into high gear to keep the eco-system of Caribbean tourism at large and that of Sandals Resorts International, going. Not only would we be ready, we’d be first.”
Stewart told a rapt audience that the Sandals team spent the down time further enhancing plans.
What they could not have planned for was the sudden, untimely death of Sandals’ founder, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart in January 2021. The younger Stewart, who had spent his youth and career working for the company and learning from his father assumed the lead, and he used today’s occasion to express what others in the room felt – immeasurable respect and admiration for the man who envisioned Sandals and grew it from a single hotel to the best-known brand in the region.
“For the 29th consecutive year, Sandals won the World Travel Awards,” he announced, crediting his late father with creating “the only superbrand to come out of the Caribbean.”
“There is a re-set taking place in Caribbean travel,” he said. “There is more natural beauty in this region than anywhere else in the world and we want to share it all with our guests.
“We don’t want what travel once was,” he said. “We want to take it where it can go. We want it to blow your mind.”
Under the umbrella of Sandals 2.0, plans include going through every hotel and seeing how it can be enhanced, upgraded, what new elements can be included.
“Over the coming couple of years with the opening of new properties in St Vincent and Dunn’s River in Jamaica not only will we be enhancing our offerings but also adding about 3,000 staff members across the board,” he said.
In Nassau, Sandals Royal Bahamian Phase 1 is complete with further enhancements to the property on target. Sandals Royal Curacao will be the first in the brand to take the all-inclusive concept to the next frontier with guests at certain levels being offered a Mini convertible and certificates for on-island dining at outside restaurants, an experience that will be offered at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau next.
This next frontier for the all-inclusive tradition is part of Stewart’s cultural immersion plan, understanding that guests want sun, sea, sand but they also want to know the people and the islands they visit.
In Jamaica Sandals Dunn’s River and Beaches (family brand) Runaway Bay will be enhanced with 3- and 4-bedroom suites, along with a property in St Vincent. Also, to be added is a Greg Norman golf course for Beaches Runaway Bay. Additionally, some properties will feature overwater bungalows.
Stewart expressed deep gratitude and respect for the travel advisors’ love affair with the Caribbean and told them Sandals would not be where it is today had it not been for their support and that he, like his late father who knew and depended on their trust for over four decades, pledged his commitment to share the four corners of the Caribbean with the world.