MONTEGO BAY, St James — Jamaica and Sandals Resorts International (SRI) again swept the 2022 World Travel Awards Caribbean and Americas, copping among others, the Caribbean's leading destination and brand, at a glitzy ceremony at the upscale Sandals Montego Bay last Wednesday.
As it has done over the years, Sandals, the region's only tourism superbrand took home a massive pile of 14 awards, including the coveted Caribbean's Leading Brand, on a night when post-pandemic resilience was honoured.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, oozing unmistakeable pride, said Jamaica's performance at the travel awards ceremony this year was especially rewarding, given the work put in by stakeholders in a sector that was upended by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"This is a very powerful night for us and I must say that even though Jamaica has traditionally led the field in these awards, the feeling of satisfaction is stronger this year because we all struggled, we all fought this pandemic and we had varying levels of success," he said.
"For Jamaica to emerge as the leading destination in terms of the awards is a very strong statement of how our team has worked assiduously and well to make this happen and I am very proud of the entire stakeholders," Bartlett said after the awards ceremony.
Of the 14 awards won by SRI, Executive Chairman Adam Stewart, attending his first in-person World Travel Awards since taking the helm of Sandals last year, said the Caribbean's Leading Brand gave him the most gratification.
"To be named unequivocally as the best in the Caribbean and awarded the World's Best fills us with a tremendous sense of pride. It's a true testament to our over 15,000 team members who are the guiding light to our success and will continue to set a new benchmark of possibilities for the future of hospitality," Stewart beamed.
Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport grabbed the award for the Caribbean's Leading Airport, while the Caribbean's Leading Tourist Board went to the Jamaica Tourist Board, and Falmouth Port was adjudged the Caribbean's Leading Cruise Port.
Bartlett congratulated SRI and the World Travel Awards "for putting on this most spectacular show", which was interspersed with performances by Sandals Dancers, The Voice 2013 winner Tessanne Chin, and reggae queen Marcia Griffiths.
"Sandals' performance is absolutely phenomenal and it is typical because ever since these awards, Sandals' performance has been monumental. And it is worthy because they have a powerful product and they really have led in so many key areas of tourism experience and we are proud because this is a home-grown product.
"Very few places in the world our size could have produced a product of this global magnitude with the level of notoriety that it has," the tourism minister said.
He also hailed the late SRI founder, Gordon "Butch" Stewart, saying: "... So full marks to Butch Stewart, of course, and now Adam [Stewart] following in good tradition."
Justin Cooke, who represented his father, Graham Cooke, founder and president of World Travel Awards, also paid tribute to the late SRI visionary who passed way on January 4, 2021.
"I would like to hail legendary founder of Sandals Resort International Gordon "Butch" Stewart, a very close friend of the World Travel Awards family and the wider tourism community. It's very sad he is no longer with us.
"I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge his legacy, dedication and passion for the Caribbean hospitality and tourism industry. In 2019, Gordon was with us for the last time. His memory will live on," Cooke noted.
He added: "Jamaica remains the jewel in the crown in the beating, vibrant heart of the Caribbean," and expressed heartfelt thanks to SRI for hosting the ceremony at the flagship Sandals Montego Bay property, winner of the award for Jamaica's Leading Resort 2022.
The World Travel Awards was founded in 1993 to recognise, reward and celebrate achievement in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognised worldwide as the pinnacle of industry achievement.
Justin Cooke (in white jacket), son of founder and president of World Travel Awards, Graham Cooke, Sandals Resorts International Executive Chairman Adam Stewart and his team pose with the Caribbean's Leading Brand award at last week's World Travel Awards held at Sandals Montego Bay .