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Interview with Sandals’ CEO Adam StewartAugust 25, 2008 By: Joe Pike
St. Lucia— Following a nearly four-hour program on Saturday in which Sandals International Resorts’ brass shared massive expansion plans with 20 tour operators and Travel Agent, the only media outlet present, we decided a follow-up with Sandals’ CEO Adam Stewart was in order.
Among the highlights of our conversation was Stewart’s declaration that he would never go public with the brand. Stewart—who is obviously first in line if his father, Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, ever decides to call it quits—said, “Will we ever go public? Not while I’m around.” Adam Stewart told us he believes that the Caribbean-based, luxury, all-inclusive giant could easily open 500 hotels in the next 10 years in such locations as Aspen and Canada, but said doing that would be selling out the essence of what Sandals has become to the Caribbean. "The way I look at it is that the Caribbean is this company’s soul,” Stewarts says.
But that doesn’t mean Sandals isn’t willing to try bold, new ventures. Stewart told us Sandals is on the verge of signing an agreement to open its first casino. The 7,000 square-foot property would be located in Turks and Caicos and would include slots and some table games. “Everyone has already signed off on it," Steward said. "There is just one signature that needs to be signed. We are waiting to make sure we have this plan exactly the way we want it. We don’t want to rush into because we need to make sure it does not have any negative impact on the brand.”
This would only be the tip of the iceberg. Kevin N. Froemming, president of Sandals International Resorts, who was heavily instrumental in the Turks and Caicos casino project, told us that if Jamaica’s recent approval for casinos holds up, he expects Sandals to be among the first in line to open one there.
Another bold move in the company’s future includes the opening of a Beaches Resort in Whitehouse, Jamaica. Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa is already among the company’s most successful couples resorts. But it only occupies about 50 acres of 600 acres owned by Sandals, creating the perfect opportunity to open a family-friendly resort far away from the existing couples resort. Those plans are in the preliminary stages and construction may be at least a year away, but we were told some initial plans call for a water park.
Last but not least, Sandals will be opening a new, and possibly the greatest, category any of its guests have ever seen in the form of its “Over the Water” suites. The 800 square-foot rooms are currently planned for St. Lucia, the Bahamas and Jamaica. The first will be at Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort. The property will be undergoing an expansion of about 220 suites slated for completion by February. Of the 220 suites, 22 will be “Over the Water” suites. The rooms have been in the planning stages for nearly three years, Stewart told us. The hold-up was mainly due to complications surrounding planning and zoning restrictions since the rooms will actually hover over the ocean. For example, among the most unusual feature will be a six-by-six-foot clear, glass section of the floor where guests can literally look over the ocean without leaving their rooms.
ose are the nuts and bolts of our conversation with Stewart. For more details on the recent “The Way Forward” Sandals presentation and more Sandals tidbits, check out our upcoming feature in the September 15 issue of Travel Agent.