Wednesday night (21/09/05) saw a gathering of journalists at the penthouse of the Dorchester hotel on London’s prestigious Park Lane. The occasion was the launch of ‘a new era’ for Caribbean mega-chain Sandals, who unveiled a series of fresh initiatives including the Signature Collection and a partnership with Preston Bailey, the internationally celebrated wedding planner. Preston was scheduled to make an appearance at the bash but unfortunately missed a connecting flight. As ever Sandals founder Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was on hand to keep the party going!Weddings can be an expensive ordeal (sorry celebration!) as Butch quipped; “I have one coming up. I had to sell one of my hotels to pay for it!” In order to ease that strain Sandals has evolved the WeddingMoon, incorporating the wedding and honeymoon in one package. For stays of five nights or longer guests receive, complimentary, a professional wedding coordinator, special dining for the couple, personalised gifts and a romantic ceremony setting.
If guests want to splash out a little more then they can opt for a Preston Bailey WeddingMoon package ranging from the Floral Elegance (US$1,700) to the top of the range Crystal Collection (US$5,000) which is a collection of White Roses and Cymbidium Orchids. There is an option for every budget.
Preston is a big hitter in the states having collaborated weddings for Oprah Winfrey, Donna Karan and Micheal Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Also at the gathering Sandals reaffirmed its new ventures.
The Signature Collection which showcases the ultimate of its accommodations including Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa, Jamaica, Sandals Antigua Caribbean Village and Spa and Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa.
Sandals Butler Service. For those booking the highest level of accommodation there is a professional butler thrown in for good measure. Enabled by a partnership with the Guild of Professional English Butlers, the aids are at the guests beck and call, arranging everything from drinks to unpacking.
Finally there was the Red Lane Spas, exclusive to Sandals, the spas offer ‘luxurious European-style treatments with Caribbean flare’. Treatments centre on utilising indigenous ingredients from Blue Mountain Coffee to natural brown sugar. Other twists in the plot include specially devised children’s and teenage treatments with extra sensitive products.
When asked why incorporate a butler service Butch commented: “It is part of the process to lift the quality. We are progressing. We made a deal with the Guild of Professional English Butlers and they are happy and have helped us to great success. This is an exclusive deal.”
Mr. Stewart was keen to point out how Sandals had come to fruition: “We started out in the air conditioning business you know? We were specialised. If you had a problem at seven pm would be there at seven pm, no problem. We became number one. We had the best service, the best training, we would work after hours, our staff we always courteous and professional - we took this philosophy to the hotel business.”
Butch was very enthusiastic about the Red Lane Spa series: “You know, we rolled the dice with spas in the early ‘90’s. We were at the forefront. We branded the spas last year and it has been great. Our spas are just incredible.”
There are some corners that argue that by creating a division in the Sandals brand with the Classic and Signature properties that customers may feel that the original is not the best any more. “We now have two levels, classic and signature, at the end of the day you get what you pay for. People come and they never expected so much. All of our properties offer luxury.”
There has long been speculation of a Sandals development in St. Kitts when quizzed Butch stated: “St. Kitts is on our Radar. Anything on our radar we will develop.” Watch this space.
For further information on Sandals and its products visit www.sandals.co.uk
Words by Ben Kilbey.