Sandals Royal Curaçao — a gift from Jamaica at 60
Shawn DaCosta (second left), Sandals Resorts International’s chief operating officer, looks on as Curacao Prime Minister Gilmar Pisas (second right) is greeted by Sandals executive Arlene Lindo and Executive Chairman Adam Stewart, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sandals Royal Curacao on June 24, 2022. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

We don’t mind confessing, at the very outset, our feeling of paternal pride at the historic opening of Sandals Royal Curaçao — the first Sandals hotel venture outside of the English-speaking Caribbean.

In the big picture, however, Sandals Royal Curaçao represents an economic gift to Dutch-speaking Curaçao from a small 60-year-old Jamaican nation which has facilitated the development of the region’s first super brand — starting with a rundown hotel plant called Bay Roc in Montego Bay, St James.

And, in the even bigger picture, the newly opened resort, under the leadership of Executive Chairman Mr Adam Stewart, who is also executive chairman of this newspaper, is a dazzling celebration of Caribbean genius, having drawn its expertise from every island where Sandals resorts operate.

We are fascinated by the revelation that, for this purpose, Sandals has formally established a task force aimed at providing human capital support to its resorts where required, specifically to offer on-the-job training support and fill key team member positions to enhance operational effectiveness and efficiency.

That is an indication of how large and powerful Sandals has grown, as no other Caribbean hotel chain is currently in a position to deploy staff on such a massive scale from one resort to another.

“We are building future leaders by providing exposure to various islands and cultures,” Mr Stewart explained after he and his CEO Mr Gebhard Rainer approved the model created by Chief Operating Officer Mr Shawn DaCosta.

Readers will recall that Mr DaCosta is the 31-year veteran of Sandals who was behind the crafting of the COVID-19 protocols that provided a near impregnable shield around Sandals resorts and was then adopted as a template for the rest of the Caribbean, making it safe for visitors to vacation and staff to work.

Since he joined Sandals in July 1991 as a trainee manager, he has steadily progressed through the ranks to his current job, and has worked side by side with the executive chairman for the past 20 years.

Sandals Royal Curaçao General Manager Kevin Clarke (left) and SRI Executive Chairman Adam Stewart (right) leading Prime Minister Gilmar Pisas on tour of the newly opened resort.

The task force concept, which was seen in January this year when Sandals Royal Bahamian was reopened, had its biggest mobilisation to date for the 351-room Sandals Royal Curaçao, whose June 1, 2022 opening meant doing things never done before.

To infuse the Sandals culture of excellence the resort chain brought in 350 of its best team members from Jamaica and the Caribbean, with another 100 to come shortly, to impart their knowledge of the roots and origin of Sandals which last year celebrated 40 years.

In the true spirit of Caribbean people, it is reassuring to hear that the task force members have grasped the opportunity to learn the different languages such as Dutch, Papiamento, and Spanish, which are widely spoken in Curaçao, and embraced the sharing of cultures.

This is critical because the prime minister of Curaçao, Mr Gilmar Pisas, has made it clear he is relying on Sandals to open the country to the coveted American tourism market to help grow the industry and to tell the enthralling story of Curaçao’s beauty and warmth.

Jamaica has a vested interest in the success of this project, not only to demonstrate Sandals’ ability as a Jamaican company stepping into a non-English-speaking country and growing its brand, but to represent Brand Jamaica at its best.

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