Sandals spends $9b in 4 years in Jamaica
Butch’ Stewart denies hotel chain only investing overseas
THERE is no truth to claims that Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is ignoring Jamaica for other regional countries in investment spending, said SRI Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart.
Stewart said that far from not investing in Jamaica where his resort chain started at the dawn of the 1980s, SRI had pumped US$82 million, or J$9 billion, in the island over the last four years in refurbishing and modernising nine of his hotels across the island.
"It's ridiculous to suggest that we have stopped investing in Jamaica. This is our home. And while we are a regional organisation and are welcomed right across the Caribbean, Sandals had its birth in our beautiful Jamaica," Stewart said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer of which he is chairman.
His response came against the background of local suggestions that the resort chain has been concentrating its spending in other regional countries, after SRI announced it had officially opened hotels in Grenada and the Turks and Caicos Island, and building resorts in Barbados and Antigua.
"Our investment in Jamaica has never stopped. We are refurbishing and modernising to raise our quality and standards radically, in keeping with our philosophy of giving our guests more than they expect.
"We obviously appreciate the fact that other regional islands see us as desirable because of the massive economic benefits that come with a Sandals or Beaches property. But Jamaica will never be left out," said the SRI boss.
He said Sandals remained the largest employer of labour and the biggest foreign exchange earner outside of government. That was true of other islands, including, St Lucia and The Bahamas, where the resorts have consistently attracted heavy airlift.
Stewart said its emphasis on management and on-the-job training of staff had made Sandals increasingly more attractive. People who have worked at Sandals are finding it far easier to get jobs in the hospitality industry worldwide, because of the Sandals reputation for quality.
A major spinoff of the Sandals presence is its marketing of the islands for which it routinely outspends both governments and other hotels combined. He also noted that the Sandals Foundation, which has been reaching out to communities in countries that have been "Sandalised", has also been making the hotel chain "a hot property".
Hundreds of Jamaicans have also been employed in Sandals and Beaches resorts overseas, most of whom send back remittances to Jamaica to finance families left behind, Stewart noted.
- Desmond Allen