Sandals marks 40 years

Heavy focus on founder ‘Butch’ Stewart, staff, travel partners, and investment in Caribbean

Jamaica Observer

SANDALS Resorts International (SRI) yesterday kicked off its 40th anniversary celebrations with the announcement that it will establish the Gordon “Butch” Stewart International School of Hospitality and Tourism in honour of its late founder’s legendary entrepreneurial spirit and lifelong belief in the power of education.

The institution — a partnership between Sandals, The University of the West Indies (The UWI), and Florida International University’s (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management — will be constructed on The UWI’s Western Jamaica Campus in Montego Bay.

“Both leaders in tourism education, FIU and The UWI will develop the next generation of international tourism and hospitality leadership through fully accredited undergraduate and graduate programming,” Sandals said in a news release, adding that “the cutting edge, research-led facility will offer students meaningful educational opportunities beyond the classroom”.

The year-long celebrations will also have a strong focus on the multiple award-winning resort group’s staff, projects that help improve the lives of people across the Caribbean, as well as its loyal guests and travel partners.

“This year marks an incredible milestone for Sandals Resorts, and it’s especially meaningful as we take this moment to honour what my father created and carry on his revered legacy across the Caribbean,” said SRI Executive Chairman Adam Stewart.

Investment in education has long been a priority of SRI, and the new school will complement the Sandals Corporate University which was established to provide Caribbean-based Sandals team members with opportunities to improve and develop occupational skills and earn undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

“When we invest in Caribbean people, we invest in the future of the region,” said Stewart.

“Since the flagship opening in 1981 at Sandals Montego Bay, we have continued to elevate and lead the all-inclusive resort space. More than that, we have demonstrated that some of the industry’s most exciting and lasting hospitality innovations are created in the Caribbean. I’m proud to celebrate this milestone for our company, alongside our Sandals family, as we look to the next 40 years of inspired Caribbean vision and innovation,” added Stewart.

Since opening its doors in Montego Bay on November 27, 1981, Sandals Resorts has delighted guests, partnered with travel advisors, and helped build tourism throughout the Caribbean where it is committed to developing hospitality excellence across the region – one of the most beloved and resilient tourism destinations in the world.

In addition to honouring the legacy of Butch Stewart, who died in January this year, Sandals said it intends to shine a light on the impact of tourism on Caribbean communities, turn the clock back with nostalgic fun planned across all Sandals resorts, and continue with additional surprises to be unveiled throughout the year.

Among the activities will be what Sandals has termed the ’40 for 40 Initiative’ which will identify 40 projects that best showcase tourism’s power to transform Caribbean communities and improve lives.

“Projects will be selected across five main areas: supporting local farmers, hospitality training and certification, preserving natural resources, harnessing unique artisan crafts and community outreach,” SRI explained.

“From ecological conservation efforts at the UNESCO World Heritage site in Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains and improving the capacity of farmers to increase their efforts toward sustainable food production, to working closely with local artisans to maximise on their talents, Sandals team members will be rolling up their sleeves to bring these projects to life and are inviting guests to join in,” the resort group said while quoting Stewart as saying, “The link between tourism and the well-being of the local Caribbean communities where we operate is undeniable.”

The resort group also said it will launch its first-ever podcast, titled ‘Sandals PalmCast’, giving listeners the inside scoop on all the latest happenings across its resorts, with 13- to 20-minute-long episodes featuring expert insights, resort overviews, and special interviews with surprises along the way.

The celebrations will also include a long-service awards ceremony where long-standing team members among its more than 15,000 staff across the region will be recognised and rewarded for their “years of excellent service and continued dedication”.

Additionally, the group said its annual Ultimate Award Ceremony “will be even more spectacular than years past, with a bigger cash prize and additional prizes”.

It will also stage a ‘Legendary Team Members Forum’ which will “tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience held by many long-standing team members, especially those who were by the founder’s side 40 years ago and have witnessed the growth of the company from one small hotel to an international superbrand”.

Also planned is a ‘Bartenders’ 40th Anniversary Welcome Cocktail Competition’ which will put the creativity of the resort group’s “exceptionally talented bartenders” to the test, challenging them to create a signature 40th anniversary welcome cocktail that will be served to all arriving guests throughout the anniversary year.

Among the other activities planned are special weekly poolside celebrations to commemorate 40 years of fun; the launch of an EST. 1981-inspired vintage T-shirt and retail collection available in all Beach House resort shops; on-property plans which will see lucky Sandals Select Rewards members and long-time Certified Sandals Specialist travel advisor partners being treated to returning guests’ dinners. They may also be invited to join a 40th anniversary commemorative sail on-board The Lady Sandals, Sandals Resorts’s signature yacht that is on a celebratory sailing tour along the Eastern seaboard throughout the year.

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