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Return of a Legend! Part 2

Executive Chairman Adam Stewart at Sandals Dunn’s River Opening Night.
Executive Chairman Adam Stewart at Sandals Dunn’s River Opening Night.
Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

HOW does one describe a 42-year-old Jamaican-owned, 100%-Caribbean entity employing over 18,500 people across eleven islands, making philanthropic contributions of over US $80 million in 2022 and annually paying hundreds-of-millions more in taxes to national treasuries?

The answers will differ, but none can deny that neither COVID-19, nor Ukraine, tempered the ever-forward thrust of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), which continues to expand, opening new resorts annually.

In the middle of the COVID-inspired global tourism economic meltdown of 2021, SRI committed to create another extra 5,000 jobs regionally; and just after Saint Vincent & The Grenadines’ major 2022 volcanic eruption, the group employed and started training over 400 Vincentians for serving a new SRI-branded luxury resort at Buccament Bay in 2024.

In 2022, Sandals Royal Curacao became the first SRI resort in the Dutch Caribbean Antilles; and its never-ending exponential growth continued on May 19, 2023 when the group’s ninth hotel was unveiled in Jamaica: the newly-reimagined 260-room Sandals Dunn’s River resort on the Ocho Rios beach, that’ll employ some 850 Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals, including 250 from other resorts.

The opening ceremony — attended by two Prime Ministers (Jamaica’s Andrew Holness and Saint Vincent and The Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves), Jamaica’s Opposition Leader Mark Golding and captains of Jamaican industry and commerce — was a veritable reminder of the role of innovation and discovery in giving life to Sandals dreams, visions and missions.

Founding Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart had a very-personal lifelong relationship with the Arawak Hotel, one of several along the Ocho Rios ‘Ochi’ beach he sold fish to while growing-up as a boy in the 1960s.

That’s when he first came to really appreciate the value visitors placed on their holidays in Jamaica — and ‘Butch’ started thinking of entering the tourism and hospitality business.

SRI successfully managed Arawak, but always in the back of the Founding Chairman’s mind was an absolute intent to one day own the hotel he sold fish to as a boy while roaming, eyes wide-open, with vision of also taking SRI’s unique styles beyond Jamaica, to the Caribbean – and the world.

The Founding Chair’s heir and successor, Adam Stewart, SRI’s current Executive Chairman, made it clear at the opening ceremony that the only person missing was his dad, whose ambition to purchase the Sandals Dunn’s River (the old Arawak) and give it a branded new life in the SRI’s fold, was always thought impossible by everyone, from family to financiers.

Adam admitted that night: “Back in May 2020, when my dad told me he’d decided to buy-back Sandals Dunn’s River, I told him he was crazy… But here we are this evening, unveiling his dream come true…”

The new Sandals Dunn’s River is presented as today’s example of ‘What’s Next’ for the region’s most-successful and fastest-growing tourism entity, which built a sterling and unrivaled global reputation over four decades under the leadership of succession that’s started a new journey of innovation and discovery under the youngest steward of the family’s business success.

As the Executive Chairman says today, “Sandals is the only brand that can offer an authentic Caribbean experience” because “We were born and raised here…”

In addition, “Our pride in being part of this incredible Caribbean community has given us one mission: to bring the Caribbean to the world — and the world to the Caribbean…”

And, he predicts, “Sandals Dunn’s River will touch the hearts and souls of a whole new generation of travelers.”

Touring the new re-imagined Sandals Dunn’s River (on my birthday) left no doubt that the Executive Chair is working hardest with Team Sandals to continue giving life, not only to his dad’s most-long-held original dream but also turning new SRI dreams into visions — and successful missions.

Examples abound at Sandals Dunn’s River, where Adam will tell you, “Innovation is our lifeblood!”

Indeed, SRI’s new innovations include: Over-the-Water Bungalows and Villas, Poolside Butler Bungalows, a two-level Infinity PoolSky Pool Suites, Rooftop Sky Bars, as well as special ‘Island-inclusive dining’ — and Sandals-provided Ford Mini Coupes for personal mini driving adventures.

SRI also boasts that the breathtaking unspoiled beauty of the new Dunn’s River 2 is one that will “Let life flow” through “the Land of Food and Water…”

In shaping the new Sandals Dunn’s River, SRI has verily defied every convention of traditional design and hospitality to create something beyond the extraordinary for the future generation of visitors to Caribbean shores – and SRI resorts.

One knowledgeable non-Jamaican veteran SRI insider (who I’ve long known and met again at the opening ceremony) told me: “We are proud to say that this new Dunn’s River is the most extraordinary resort Jamaica has ever seen… It’s a magical place where we transform every day into something extraordinary – and where your simple pleasures become unforgettable experiences.”

But if you thought this was all, or this is the end of SRI’s Caribbean thrust, the SRI Exec-Chair will also very-well tell you, “We’re just getting started…”

Adam Stewart and Team SRI remain clearly-focused on the future with a vision for the Caribbean that includes more new resorts across the islands, all sustainably-designed to showcase this regional paradise.

As my insider friend also told me above the din during the entertainment extravaganza featuring everything from Live Jazz performances to a surprise appearance by Shaggy that eventually ended with more than the usual sky-blazing fireworks:

“The Sandals family of brands is all about innovation and evolution. Why? Because we dare to do what others only dream…

“And with our all-new destinations including a brand-new Beaches in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as expansions on Jamaica, Turks & Caicos Islands and Saint Lucia, we’re excited to take the-whole-wide-world on this journey with us – including you…”

And, he underlined, “No other place in the world captures the imagination more than the Caribbean. They call it ‘Paradise’, but we call it Home!”