WHY IT RATES: Sandals Royal Bahamian is back in business, which is great news for fans of the Sandals brand. Also, the celebration’s speakers revealed the incredible journey of Sandals and its founder from a difficult beginning to all-inclusive success. -Michael Isenbek, TravelPulse Senior Editor
Over 1,000 invited guests and hundreds of hotel visitors ate, drank, danced and mingled with Prime Ministers from two countries and leaders from the global travel industry as they celebrated the grand reopening of Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island on Nov. 18, 2016.
Speeches honored the Sandals Foundation’s donations of more than $27 million in seven years in the Caribbean and lauded Sandals’ achievements — 20 properties in seven countries with 14,000 employees.
Speaker after speaker credited Sandals Resorts founder Gordon “Butch” Stewart for his vision and shaping the all-inclusive resort brand. The Bahamian Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis reflected on his “singular commitment to exceeding customer’s needs through rigid standards of quality for service and innovation.” It was that word — innovation — that has supported and guided the Sandals success story.
Mr. Stewart himself confessed that when he first wanted to add luxury to all-inclusive, there were those who had their doubts, but 35 years after the Sandals brand was born, it is the only resort brand that has made the Fortune 500 list five years running.
Now, Adam Stewart, who serves as Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sandals Resorts International, says “the combination of beach, romance, luxury, fine dining and extraordinary service clearly marks Sandals around the Caribbean and in The Bahamas.” Those who came to see the newly-renovated hotel following a multi-million-dollar makeover that forced it to close its doors for 10 weeks found themselves joining those who used the occasion to applaud the man who created the Sandals brand.
Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica, called Stewart the “guru of Caribbean tourism.” Obie Wilchcombe, Bahamas Minister of Tourism, said Sandals was the most recognized brand in the Caribbean and thanked Stewart for investing so deeply in The Bahamas and for operating its training facility, Sandals Corporate University.
“Thirty-five years ago, in the face of warnings of the financial ruin for prospective investors in the Caribbean hotel industry, Jamaica’s Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart took the risk anyway,” said Davis. “Butch invested in one hotel in Montego Bay and took risk after risk, growing the now world renowned brand at breakneck pace to include 20 properties today.”
Davis did not reveal the ups and downs that Butch Stewart endured because he took a risk. There were tough times, especially at the start, but Stewart battled on, zeroing in on the winning recipe for romance. He understood that it involved the sea, a beach, fine dining and over-the-top service in an all-inclusive luxurious environment, a pampering atmosphere couples would crave.
Service has remained a cornerstone of the Sandals brand.
“Anyone who has been trained by Sandals can get a job anywhere in the world,” said Stewart, who has consistently insisted on training the Sandals way — hire for attitude, teach the skills.
Stewart himself was the one who cast light on the reason for the celebration as he looked around at the lavish event that included all Bahamian talent and tributes to local culture in the culinary, performing and visual arts. Performances included the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Band, Valley Boys Junkanoo rush-out, Visage, fire dancers, live artists and a feast for hundreds.
“This hotel, Sandals Royal Bahamian,” Stewart said, looking over the crowd of 1,000-plus people, “has never looked more beautiful than it does tonight.”
For more information, visit sandals.com.
SOURCE: A Sandals press release