Breaking Travel News

Breaking Travel News interview: Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, chairman, Sandals Resorts International

With 15 stunning beachfront settings, Sandals Resorts has earned a worldwide reputation for providing two people in love with the most romantic holiday experience in the Caribbean.

Here Breaking Travel News sits down with founder, and Sandals Resorts International chairman, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart to discuss the latest steps the group has taken to redefine Luxury Included travel in the Caribbean.

Breaking Travel News: With the North American economy gathering speed and other key markets, in the UK and Germany for example, now on the up, is the Caribbean tourism market close to full health in early 2015?

Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart: There’s no question that the economic climate of the past few years has presented challenges, but I would say that the Caribbean tourism market from the UK is up to full health.

For Europe as a whole, while there are some indications of improvements, there are still economic challenges such as possible deflation and a weak pound and euro versus dollar, all of which is forcing up prices for the European market.

These issues are having some effects on consumer confidence; however the future still looks good for Caribbean tourism from this market, due to factors such as the continued excellent airlift out of the UK.

The all-inclusive market remains strong and there is still a demand for great quality product, which is why we are constantly investing in our Luxury Included offering.

We are anticipating strong performances out of the UK and Europe after a record year in 2014.

BTN: Sandals has been doing its part to attract visitors to the region, recently opening Sandals Barbados. Can you tell us a little about your latest project and what it adds to the Caribbean tourism sector?

GS: When we acquired this property in August 2013, we knew we were buying great potential; here was a lovely resort that could be transformed into something truly magical.

Through the extensive renovation programme we have continued to push beyond the boundaries of innovative architecture to deliver a product that is decidedly indulgent, undeniably luxurious, and unmistakably Sandals.

Sandals Barbados is the latest product in our portfolio to elevate what people have come to expect from Sandals Resorts, and truly sets the new bar in the luxury all-inclusive holiday experience.

From our first-ever Indian restaurant concept to the continued evolution of our design aesthetic, we’ve created a really remarkable resort.

The new resort has 280 luxury accommodations set within three villages: Ocean Village, Crystal Lagoon Village and Caribbean Village.

There’s a range of incredible rooms and suites, with everything from opulent beachfront butler suites to new swim-up river suites in the resort’s beautiful tropical gardens. 

There are 11 Gourmet Discovery Dining choices with everything from French Brasserie at Bayside and Japanese Teppanyaki at Kimonos to a world class steakhouse, Butch’s Chophouse, and our first ever Indian restaurant, Bombay Club. 

We’ve also introduced an oceanfront main pool with swim-up bar; expansive whirlpool; a reflecting pool with fire pit in the lobby; our signature fire pits; and exclusive Red Lane Spa with six new treatment rooms.

We like to say that this resort is ‘where exclusive is always inclusive’!

BTN: Across the portfolio Sandals recently signed a partnership with Robert Mondavi Wines. Is this further evidence of your ‘Luxury Included’ philosophy?

BS: Yes, our guests, like most consumers, are enjoying more wine at home and becoming more knowledgeable on the subject and we want to ensure that when they visit one of our resorts, their wine experience – from selection to service - exceeds expectations.

To be the best, we have to partner with one of the world’s best and Robert Mondavi Wines fits the bill.

Beginning this month, our resorts will now offer a selection of six complimentary house wines, increased from four varietals, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Approachable and easy to drink, these wines were selected for their ability to pair with the resorts’ global, authentic cuisine.

Additionally, wines from California, Washington, Australia, Italy and New Zealand will be available through an enhanced Manager’s Wine List at all Sandals and Beaches restaurants. 

We will offer our guests the opportunity to expand their knowledge of wine through wine pairing courses, weekly wine and cheese receptions and wine tastings.

Employees will also undergo extensive training from glassware selection to wine list advice to compliment the experience. 

At Sandals and Beaches Resorts we are constantly striving to lead the evolution of the all-inclusive movement through investment, innovation and partnerships with iconic brands such as Mondavi, Sesame Street and the Guild of Professional English Butlers.

This is all the foundation of the Luxury Included experience.

BTN: Sandals took the title of World’s Leading All Inclusive Company for a staggering 18th consecutive year at the World Travel Awards Grand Final in 2014. How does it feel to have continued this unprecedented run of success?

BS: We are thrilled to once again be honoured by the prestigious World Travel Awards.

We continue to strive for excellence and invest in our product, so that each year we can be proud to say we are the World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company.

This year has already seen us open our incredible new resort Sandals Barbados, and we’ve also announced investments of more than $100 million to go into our existing resorts, in order to further elevate the service and amenities and to continue to evolve our brands. 

When we first started, all we had was our desire to do more than people ever expected – regardless of what it took.

Some 33 years on, our ethos remains the same. Over the years we’ve fine-tuned our training and development programme to ensure that our team members provide the best guest service in the business.

We like to use the phrase ‘We employ the smile, everything else we train’ to define our recruitment policy and it’s the main reason so many guests continue to return to our resorts.

We are constantly investing in innovation as well as imagination so that our Luxury Included concept anticipates the needs and desires of our guests. 

From a consistent refreshing of current resorts to introducing innovative new hotels, facilities and opportunities, we are determined to ensure that we offer our guests a true ‘luxury’ product. 

More Information

Sandals Resorts welcomes guests to the islands of Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas, Barbados and Grenada with a myriad of exclusive amenities from luxurious accommodations and Butler service to gourmet specialty dining and premium wines and spirits.

The award-winning Sandals Resorts is also the perfect venue for dream destination weddings, vow renewals, honeymoons, or what Sandals Resorts has coined WeddingMoons.

For more on Sandals Resorts head over to the official website.