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Sandals is expanding to St Vincent and the Grenadines with a new Beaches resort (Credit: iStock)
Sandals is expanding to St Vincent and the Grenadines with a new Beaches resort (Credit: iStock)

Stewart reveals that, as of early June, Sandals’ booking demand in the UK had recovered to around 80% of 2019 levels, fuelled by family and wedding business. However, he believes this only scratches the surface of the pent-up demand yet to be unlocked.


“I’m hopeful we’ll start to see Caribbean nations on the UK green list shortly – no hotel is a buzzing hotel without Brits in it,” says Stewart, with a smile.


Plans to grow Sandals’ UK business includes the brand’s first venture in the Dutch Caribbean, in Curacao, supported by significant UK regional connectivity via KLM. It is also working on a new property in St Vincent and the Grenadines, which will be the first Beaches resort in the eastern Caribbean.


“The story of Sandals is one of going to an island, falling in love with it, building something next-generation, taking it to market, and then developing air routes through demand, trust in the brand, and partnerships with airlines and agents,” says Stewart. “St Vincent is a perfect example.”

 

Sandals 2.0

 

Sandals has hired 500 nationals for the project, 17 months ahead of the proposed opening in Q1 2023. “It allows us to have ‘Sandalised’ management in place when we open the hotel,” Stewart explains. “We’re playing the long game.”

 

Sandals’ corporate university has been instrumental in this philosophy, blending corporate training with academia. “Every hotel and resort is a campus,” says Stewart, proudly. It was in 2009 during his tenure as chief executive that Sandals launched its foundation and the corporate university. “We hire personality and train skill,” he says.

 

“We don’t prejudice anyone due to their lack of opportunity. We’ll teach them to read and write and give them their masters completely paid for. It’s a licence, and Sandals is a password. The university has allowed us to move faster and get more Caribbean nationals ready for the brand standards we uphold.”

Adam Stewart (left) with his late father Butch Stewart (Credit: Sandals)
Adam Stewart (left) with his late father Butch Stewart (Credit: Sandals)

The group, Stewart reveals, owns landbanks sufficient to double Sandals’ footprint. During Covid, it has bought four new resorts, with another two already in development.

 

“Over the next seven to 10 years, we will – in effect – double the size of Sandals. We’re building what I call Sandals 2.0 and Beaches 2.0. The university has given us the ability to move at pace and execute this.”

 

Stewart’s ambition matches his father’s legendary vision. “Covid has been what I call the great accelerator,” he says. “There are very few things happening right now that we didn’t anticipate. These new sanitation and cleanliness measures I don’t see going away, and they shouldn’t.


“Ultimately, I think travel agents will be winners in all of this. Consumers will stop taking movement for granted. Covid has humbled us all and won’t be soon forgotten, but it won’t last for ever. I believe we’ve got to a point where the worst is far behind us.”

Spotlight on Stewart

ON HIS DAD


My dad grew up on the beach. I always said he used to fish to make a living, and later, earned a living to fish.

 

ON HOLIDAYS

 

I’m a British passport holder, as are my family. It’s where we holiday – it’s the one place to which we escape.

 

ON THE COVID RECOVERY

 

This crisis has different economics to the 2008/09 downturn; there is going to be a super-boom that comes from this.

 

ON AGENTS

 

We’ve always known the power of agents; we feel privileged the agent community has taken time to invest in our business.

 

ON THE FUTURE

 

Customers have really started leaning into brands they trust; people are ready to get back to travelling with brands they know and love.

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