“We’re going to DOUBLE our Caribbean hotels,” says Sandals President Adam Stewart
In his blood: Adam Stewart has worked for Sandals since he was a child
Adam Stewart, president of Caribbean luxury resorts, Sandals, is on vacation in the Cotswolds, a million miles from the sunny islands where he spends much of his time. But her British customers, weary of the gray skies and cooler weather, are heading to Jamaica – and Sandals’ other seven sun-drenched destinations.
Bookings by British tourists have skyrocketed from 2019 levels since the government placed the majority of Sandals’ Caribbean destinations on the “green” travel list in June, he says.
At the start of peak season in November, his group’s 6,000 hotel rooms will be 90% full, with pent-up demand already stretching through 2022.
âIf you went to the Sandals website, it would be very difficult to find a room by March of next year. There are gaps, but in the first three months of next year we have already sold over 70% of our inventory. We had a bump in the road like all hospitality, but bounced back like no other business in the Caribbean.
Sandals Resorts International offers all-inclusive vacations at 16 Sandals adults-only resorts and three Beaches hotels suitable for families. It all started 40 years ago when Stewart’s father Gordon, a Jamaican businessman nicknamed “Butch,” bought a run-down hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Most of its hotels face west, to maximize Caribbean sunsets, and it hosts around 10,000 weddings a year.
Stewart, 40, has been immersed in the family business since childhood. He was put to work from an early age, filling envelopes in the post office and dealing with phones in call centers.
Over the past five years, he and his father have written the Handbook for Business Evolution – or âSandals 2.0â – charting further expansion in the Caribbean.
Her father passed away in January and Stewart, now executive chairman of Sandals, is overseeing plans to double the size of the company over the next decade to 40 resorts.
âThe Caribbean has always been the darling of Europe. There has always been this incredible connection, especially with the UK. If you’re traveling to London we’ve been putting our mark on taxis for 15 years, âhe says. âMy father gave me great authority as we worked together for 22 years. We are now ready and ready for growth. I hope to make him proud.
The top five developments are in Jamaica, CuraÃ§ao and St Vincent, where Sandals bought run-down hotels that experienced financial problems under previous owners. Full acquisition costs are not being disclosed, but Sandals will spend around Â£ 340million to renovate the assets, along with another resort in the Bahamas, before it opens from 2022.
Some are âfull demolition and demolitionâ work; others are major renovations, adding infinity pools, private villas, mountain biking trails, water parks, gourmet restaurants, and 18-hole golf courses. Stewart’s UK customers, who account for 15% of bookings, include the Duke of Cambridge, who visited the Royal Caribbean resort in Sandals in Jamaica during his bachelor days. Stewart calls for construction work to bring properties up to “sandalization” process standards.
Sandals’ parent company is registered in Barbados and does not disclose its revenues or profits. But Stewart says 2019 was a banner year for the private company; 2020 was “not too far behind”; and fall 2021 will be âour best fall everâ. The business remains fully family owned and has no plans to seek outside investment as it has kept debt low and is reinvesting the profits back into the business.
Funding for the expansion will come from a group of Caribbean-based lenders, including Canadian bank CIBC and National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. Stewart says, âA lot of people would reap big dividends from the organization. No one else in the all-inclusive space has ever been able to get close to Sandals because we’re investing more [rivals] by injecting free cash flow back into the business. ‘
The Stewart family once owned the Caribbean airline Jamaica Air, which had a partnership agreement with Caribbean neighbor Sir Richard Branson, who became a close friend of Stewart’s father.
Stewart is a big fan of Virgin and hopes to emulate the success of the Branson brand. âI line up the sandals with the Virgin from a few years ago – Virgin had this amazing brand that Sir Richard built. But the presence of her airline was far more important than the number of planes she had. Our company is in a very similar position where the brand is bigger than the company itself. ‘
British customers of Sandals still arrive at its resorts on Virgin Atlantic aircraft, as well as British Airways, Aer Lingus and KLM, via package tours booked with tour operators such as Virgin Holidays, Kenwood and Kuoni.
Plush: a Caribbean resort where Sandals is a major GDP driver, employing 15,000 people, from fire eaters to scuba diving instructors
Last week, there were concerns that Jamaica could move from the Amber List to the Red List during the next travel review, due to a sharp increase in Covid cases since July. But Stewart points out that the positivity rate of its resorts is only 0.5% for the year to date due to strict sanitary measures, and that UK guests wanting to get away from it all are still making reservations from last minute.
In the Caribbean – what Stewart calls “the world’s little sandbox” – Sandals is a major GDP driver, employing 15,000 people, from fire eaters to scuba diving instructors, and energizing the fishing industries, agriculture and entertainment.
Its charitable arm, the Sandals Foundation, has implemented $ 70 million in community projects across the Caribbean over 12 years. And when Sandals opened its resort in Granada in 2013, Stewart more than doubled the number of flights to the island.
âOne of the reasons governments love it when Sandals comes to town is that we create about ten billion media impressions each year for this country,â says Stewart. âAnother key element is that everyone’s prices are going up – from taxi drivers to restaurants. All tides rise with the entrance of Sandals.
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