Adam Stewart, chairman of the luxurious Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean, is vacationing in the Cotswolds – a million miles from the sun-drenched islands where he spends a lot of time.
But his British customers, fed up with gray skies and cold climates, are jetting to Jamaica – and to Sandals’ seven other sunny destinations.
Bookings from British tourists have risen above 2019 levels since the government put most of Sandals’ Caribbean destinations on the “green” travel list in June, he says.
In the blood: Adam Stewart has worked for Sandals since he was a child
By the start of the main season in November, the 6,000 hotel rooms in his group will be 90 percent occupied, and the pent-up demand will last until 2022.
“If you went to the Sandals website it would be very difficult to find a room by March next year.
“There are gaps, but in the first three months of next year we have already sold over 70 percent of our inventory. We had a hit on the road like all hospitality, but we recovered like no other company in the Caribbean. ”
Sandals Resorts International offers all-inclusive vacations in 16 adult-only Sandals Resorts and three family-friendly Beaches hotels.
It all started 40 years ago when Stewart’s father, Gordon, a Jamaican businessman nicknamed “Butch,” bought a shabby hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Most hotels face west to maximize Caribbean sunsets and there are approximately 10,000 weddings annually.
Stewart, 40, has been immersed in the family business since childhood. He was used from a young age to stuff envelopes in the post office and to operate the telephones in call centers.
Over the past five years, he and his father have created the company’s development manual – or “Sandals 2.0” – which outlines further expansion in the Caribbean.
Plush: A resort in the Caribbean where sandals is a major contributor to gross domestic product and employs 15,000 people, from fire-eaters to diving instructors
His father died in January and Stewart, now Sandals’ chairman, oversees efforts to double the size of the company to 40 resorts over the next decade.
“The Caribbean has always been a treasure of Europe. This amazing connection has always been around, especially with Great Britain. If you’re out and about in London, we’ve been using taxis as our brand for 15 years, ”he says.
“My father gave me great authority when we worked together for 22 years. Now we are ready and equipped for growth. I hope to make him proud. ‘
The first five developments are in Jamaica, Curacao and St. Vincent, where Sandals has bought run-down hotels that had run into financial difficulties under previous owners.
The total acquisition cost is unknown, but Sandals will spend around £ 340 million to renovate its assets as well as another resort in the Bahamas before it opens in 2022.
Some are “complete demolition and demolition work”; others are major renovations with infinity pools, private villas, mountain bike trails, water parks, fine-dining restaurants, and 18-hole golf courses.
Stewart’s UK customers, who account for 15 percent of bookings, include the Duke of Cambridge, who visited Sandals’ Royal Caribbean Resort in Jamaica when he was a bachelor.
Stewart names the construction work to bring the property to the “sandalization” process.
Sandals’ parent company, based in the Bahamas, does not disclose any sales or profits. But Stewart says 2019 was a record year for the private company; 2020 was “not too far back”; and autumn 2021 will be “our best autumn ever”.
The company remains fully family-owned and does not plan on outside investment as it has kept its debt down and reinvested profits into the company.
The expansion will be funded by a pool of Caribbean-based lenders, including the Canadian bank CIBC and the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica.
Stewart says, “A lot of people would suck big dividends out of the organization. No one else in the all-inclusive has ever been able to get close to Sandals because we are over-investing [rivals] by bringing free cash flows back into the business. ‘
Sandals’ resorts are a major contributor to the Caribbean’s gross domestic product, employing 15,000 people, from fire-eaters to diving instructors
The Stewart family previously owned the Caribbean airline Jamaica Air, which was partnered with Caribbean neighbor Sir Richard Branson, who became a close friend of Stewart’s father.
A great admirer of Virgin, Stewart hopes to emulate Branson’s success in branding. “I match sandals to Virgin from a few years ago – Virgin had this incredible brand that Sir Richard built.
“But his airline’s presence was far greater than the number of planes it had. Our company is in a very similar position where the brand is bigger than the company itself. ‘
Sandals’ UK guests continue to travel to the resorts on Virgin Atlantic aircraft, as well as British Airways, Aer Lingus and KLM on package tours booked with tour operators such as Virgin Holidays, Kenwood and Kuoni.
Last week there were fears that Jamaica could switch from amber to the red list at the next travel review due to a steep increase in Covid cases since July.
The prices are rising for all of them – from taxi drivers to restaurants. All tides rise with Sandals ‘entry.’
However, Stewart points out that due to strict health measures so far this year, the positivity rate for his resorts is only 0.5 percent and that UK guests eager to leave are still making last-minute bookings.
In the Caribbean – what Stewart calls “the world’s little sandpit” – Sandals is a major contributor to GDP, employs 15,000 people from fire-eaters to diving instructors, and powers the fishing, agriculture and entertainment industries.
His charitable arm, the Sandals Foundation, has raised $ 70 million in community projects in the Caribbean over 12 years.
And when Sandals opened its Grenada resort in 2013, Stewart claimed flights to the island more than doubled.
“One of the reasons governments love Sandals to come to town is that we generate about ten billion media impressions for this country every year,” says Stewart.
“Another important element is that prices go up for everyone – from taxi drivers to restaurants. All tides rise with Sandals ‘entry.’
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