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Sandals’ Big PlansSeptember 12, 2008 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Travel Agent’s On-Site Report on the All-Inclusive Giant’s Major Expansion Plans
Sandals recently sent out an emphatic message to its competitors: If you don’t up the ante and continue to invest, you may get lost in the dust.
The all-inclusive giant is making strides in gaining a strangle hold on the competition with an announcement for a mega-expansion plan that will take it’s Luxury Included program to the upper-echelon.
A Million Dollar Suite at Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa
Travel Agent was recently on hand for a four-hour conference dubbed “The Way Forward” at Sandals Grande St. Lucia in which the company brass, led by Gordon “Butch” Stewart and his son Adam Stewart, CEO, laid out detailed plans on the company’s vision into 2010 and beyond. If you haven’t already learned the scoop from the nearly 20 tour operators in attendance, here’s what you missed:
* There are plans to add an additional plasma TV to every room at Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa, from two TVs to three TVs per room.
* At Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach & Village Resort, all two-bedroom villas and all four-bedroom villas are being renovated.
* At Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Resort in Ocho Rios, all Romeo and Juliet Honeymoon, four-bedroom suites are being redone.
* Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island will have a new pool, pizza oven and every room will be touched up from new linens to vanity units and imported marble from Italy.
* Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa will see upgrades to the honeymoon suites on the Caribbean side. The Mediterranean side of the property, which consists of 180 suites, opened about a year ago.
The bathrooms in Sandals Grande St. Lucian's Rondoval Suites are spacious
* Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort will be adding 220 rooms, including 22 “Over The Water” suites and a mixture of Rondoval Suites as well as five new restaurants.
* At Sandals Regency La Roc Resort and Spa, three new Millionaire Suites will be added. There are currently four. Travel Agent had the opportunity to see one of the suites, which opened only a few weeks ago. These rooms offers luxury bedrooms, a living room with sofas and 42-inch plasma TV, access to an outdoor terrace through plantation-style pocket doors, 24-hour room service and private car transfers to and from both of St. Lucia’s major airports.
* At Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, family suites are being built that will be very similar to the ones at Beaches Turks & Caicos Family Resort & Spa.
* Beaches Sand Bay All-Inclusive Family Vacation Resort in Negril is adding a new barefoot restaurant and is planning a major expansion of all of its rooms.
* One of the most unique additions to the Sandals product will be the reopening of Dragon Bay in Port Antonio, Jamaica. The property will primarily be a spa. According to Adam Stewart, it will be a “spa that happens to have hotel rooms” and will offer one-, two- and three-day mega-spa treatment sessions. Sandals has begun working on the concepts , but their completion date is in approximately three years.
* Sandals will see its restaurants grow from 147 to 161 by the end of this year.
One-on-One With Adam Stewart
We chatted with the CEO of Sandals about the company’s new vision and the possibility of expanding outside of the Caribbean.
A butler-serviced room in Sandals Grande St. Lucian
Among the highlights of our conversation was Stewart’s declaration that he would never go public with the brand. According to Stewart, who is obviously first in line in succession to the Sandals' empire, “Will we ever go public? Not while I’m around.” Adam Stewart told us he believes 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,” Stewart 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 rest in Turks and Caicos and would include slots and some table games. “Everyone has already signed off on it. There is just one signature that needs to be signed, ours,” Stewart says. “We are waiting to make sure we have this plan exactly the way we want it. We don’t want to rush into [it] because we need to make sure it does not have any negative impact on the brand.” And 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.
And last but not least, Sandals will opening a new and possibly the greatest category any of its guests has ever see 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 holdup was mainly due to complications surrounding planning and zoning restrictions since the rooms will actually hover over the ocean.
Sandals Grande St. Lucian Rondoval plunge pool
It was about a year ago when Travel Agent first saw Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort’s newly unveiled Rondoval Suites. Just a brief tour of these ultra luxurious rooms was enough to fully understand why they are the property’s most popular seller. Well, at least that was before we actually got to stay in one during another Sandals fam and practically had to be dragged away before our departure. The rooms (we stayed in #7014, an Ultra Grande Luxury Beach Rondoval Suite) are basically designed in such a fashion that your clients may not want to leave their rooms. And why should they? Each room comes with its own plunge pool, Jacuzzi and hammock located in a patio in the back of the room. It is completely fenced in from the other rooms, sheltering guests from anyone else. The plunge pool was my favorite part of this butler-serviced room. It comes with a raft and direct access from your room. There is literally a door from your bed to the pool. The showers are open to the rest of the room. Clients may not only opt for not leaving their room, but they may also opt for not leaving their pool; butlers will actually come to your back patio and offer anything from a handful of cold Piton beers on a bucket of ice to a plate of fresh, local fruit to a bottle of champagne to pretty much anything else a client can think of within reason. We recommend butlers Jackie and Bailey and suggest between a $20-to-$30 tip per day, depending on how frequently your clients use them.