Sandals Barbados, which launched this week, will give the island a welcome boost in UK business, said Sandals chief executive Adam Stewart.
Admitting that Barbados was having a tough year from the UK, he said: “We hope we’re going to be a major part in bringing that back.”
Sandals will add five new restaurants to the hotel, which it took over from Couples on Monday. Couples had been operating the hotel since last June and had already spent millions of dollars overhauling the former Almond Casuarina property.
“The renovation of the spa and lobby was very tasteful, but there are things we want to do to ‘Sandalise’ the resort,” said Stewart.
A sushi restaurant, teppanyaki restaurant, British pub, pizzeria and steakhouse will be added where the tennis courts currently are, meaning works can be carried out without disruption to guests.
It will be 2015 before Beaches Barbados, being constructed on the site of the former Almond Beach Village, is ready.
“The dynamics of having both a Beaches and Sandals in a destination is fantastic,” he said.
With Sandals LaSource Grenada to open next month, on another island typically strongest in the UK market, Stewart said it was likely the UK would make up a greater proportion of Sandals guests overall in future.
“The UK makes up about 18% of our business at the moment. We don’t know how exactly it will change but it means the UK is more important to us than ever,” he explained.
Stewart reported that bookings for winter 2013-14 have seen the highest level of repeat bookers in the company’s history, up by 18% compared with last year.
Sandals LaSource Grenada has been “the best-ever selling hotel for a hotel that’s not open”, Stewart revealed.
In the UK, Sandals LaSource had been Sandals’ top-selling resort until this week, when Sandals Barbados overtook it, according to UK managing director Karl Thompson. He admitted the two new properties had impacted on sales of Sandals’ other eastern Caribbean Sandals, but said there has also been considerable new business.
UK sales are currently 15% up on the same period last year, and future bookings for 2014 are up 35%.
A new advanced online training course for agents goes live this week, and the former SABTA training has been renamed as Sandals Masterclass.