Anyone who's a fan of Sandals and Beaches all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean has news to get excited about. At a recent New York City press luncheon, the resort brand's chief Gordon "Butch" Stewart, his son Adam, now 32 (pictured above), plus key team members shared some of the group's expansion news. Much of it aims to improve the family beach vacation experience.
Sesame Street Grows with Beaches Family Resorts
The three Beaches resorts (Beaches Negril and Beaches Ocho Rios in Jamaica, and Beaches Turks & Caicos) in Sandals Resorts International Beaches brand are already considered by many to be the finest family resorts in the Caribbean. They were the first all-inclusive resorts to incorporate the huge learning potential of "Sesame Street" by using the beloved characters to teach preschoolers how to spell, sing and dance. The programs have become so popular that Beaches keeps up with demand by adding more Sesame Street characters every season.
Families can now meet Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, Zoe, Bert & Ernie, Abby Cadabby, The Count, Big Bird and Super Grover. Kids study science with Super Grover. Go bird-watching with Big Bird. Cook with Cookie Monster. The Stewart family has taken Sesame Street characters to communities in Jamaica so that local children can benefit from the educational partnership. Not to mention the learning that goes on for more than 2,500 adults at Sandals University, a Sandals Foundation-funded school that trains resort employees for management positions in the hospitality industry.
Beaches Growth Continues in Family Market
Sandals is a family-owned business, a fact made very clear by the Stewart clan when they announced their $850 million investment in properties over the past eight years. They reiterated that nothing was more important than the guest experience, and that the many thoughtful improvements Sandals was making were designed to "blow your mind." As an example, by May of 2013, Beaches Turks & Caicos will have transformed the former Verandah condominium into its fourth themed "village" — Key West village, a luxury expansion of 140 one- to four-bedroom villas adjacent to the Italian Village.
The Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club (formerly Beaches Boscobel) has also undergone a family-friendly transformation, growing double rooms into large family suites. Rooms have been clustered into a blue and white Greek Village with Mediterranean restaurants, the new Pirate Island waterpark has 11 slides and, as at all Beaches resorts, babies are cared for by sitters trained by the International Nanny Association. Kids 2-11 participate in VIK Camp where Sesame Street characters lead certain workshops while older kids learn scrapbooking, polish their DJ skills, or hit the Xbox lounge. Tweens and teens can party in Trenchtown Lounge and Liquid, the neon-lit nightclub, till the grown-ups take over after midnight.
All Stewart Resorts Expand Guest Wellness Amenities
Dining has received an upgrade at all of the all-inclusive properties, where good food was already a hallmark. A crop of new European chefs are designing fresh menus that focus on authentic flavors and seasonal ingredients, especially at the a la carte restaurants specializing in different international cuisines. In a smart, forward-thinking move, Sandals has opened its own organic farm in Jamaica, which is already able to supply some produce for three resorts. Adam Stewart would like to see its success transform all of Caribbean agriculture.
Other environmental initiatives will pay off more quickly, especially energy-efficiency upgrades on resort islands like Great Exuma where the electricity per room at Sandals Emerald Bay can cost US$100 per night.
The "wow them" ethic extends throughout the family's far-reaching umbrella company, Appliance Traders Limited. ATL comprises the hotel brands, the Jamaica Observer newspaper; an electronics company that started out with air-conditioners; and the successful Island Routes tour company that operates in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Barbados and Grand Cayman. Another sustainable venture, Island Routes remedies some of the economic imbalance of all-inclusive resorts by giving guests a reason to leave the properties and spend their tourism dollars with locals.
Sandals Adult Resorts Offer More Luxury Options
While many other luxury brands are expanding choices at a lower price point to attract new and younger customers, Sandals is building bigger and better. Sandals Resorts on the islands of Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Lucia and the Bahamas have, like Beaches, upgraded with exclusive amenities, fancier accommodations, butler service, gourmet specialty dining, and premium wines and spirits. "We've gone straight up market, where a lot of product already is, but we strive to give guests more than what they want," noted Adam Stewart. By August of this year, the La Source Resort the Stewarts took over in Grenada will reopen with 100 more bedrooms, eight restaurants and, for the first time, a steakhouse. "Grenada will be extravagant," he declared.
Butch, the very proud father, and his impressive son Adam then introduced the Club Sandals concept, which applies to certain room categories where room service, butler service, a wide range of amenities, private lounges and a reading library will await premium level guests.
Stewart Keeps Sandals Resorts Company All in the Family
It was an all in the family affair, a winning mix of the personal and business that has contributed to making the Stewart clan among the most beloved of Caribbean success stories. Today, Adam's sister Jaime Stewart-McConnell runs the very upscale, boutique Royal Plantation Collection of hotels.
Several of Stewart's other children are involved in hospitality, although Butch’s older son Brian Jardim runs the Margaritaville restaurant chain outside the clan. Adam's brother, Bobby Stewart, is in the company's UK office, and there are three young Stewarts still at home who will have big shoes to fill.
“Family is behind everything we do and we actually like each other,” Adam told Travel Weekly.
“Do we take family vacations?" he added. "Sure, but only at Sandals."
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