Although there haven't been any new developments since it was announced roughly two years ago, Sandals Resorts International is still very much interested in expanding to Mexico.
But don't expect any new details anytime soon as Gordon "Butch" Stewart, founder and chairman of Sandals, tells Travel Agent the company is heavily focused on ongoing projects in the Caribbean at the moment.
As part of our “Five Questions With…” series, Travel Agent chats with Stewart about everything from the company's plans to expand to Mexico as well as rumors that Sandals was exploring the idea of a potential sale.
1. Sandals announced it would expand to Mexico about two years ago and it's been quiet ever since. What is the latest you can tell us on the expansion? When can we expect the first Sandals in Mexico to open? Is Los Cabos next?
We are still interested and have plans for Mexico – as well as other destinations – however, opportunities in St. Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica have taken our immediate attention. Just last week we announced the purchase of a new golf club in St. Lucia – a really spectacular 18-hole course and the only game of its kind in town.
And we’ll be breaking ground on our fourth property, Sandals LaSource St. Lucia, later this year. We’re also continuing our considerable investment in Barbados – including Sandals Royal Barbados, which will open in December and, of course, our plans for Beaches Barbados.
And we’ll be sharing news about the long-awaited Dragon Bay in the coming months. By 2018, we’ll have four properties that will have either just debuted or will be in the development phase. We’re excited for what’s to come.
2. There was a recent Reuters report that Sandals was exploring a possible sale. Can you comment on that and tell our readers whether Sandals is in discussions to sell the company or is this just business as usual?
Look, this certainly isn’t the first time we’ve heard this and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We’ve been exploring options to accelerate the company’s long-term growth and development plans for quite some time – this is not new. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual and as you know, we have had an amazing – and busy – year with the opening of the Caribbean’s first-ever over-the-water suites and the announcement of new hotels in St. Lucia and Barbados. We’re continuing to drive innovation, set standards for the industry and we have phenomenal momentum forward.
3. Sandals made some big waves this year opening over-the-water bungalows in both Jamaica and St. Lucia. Can you tell our readers how these new categories are doing? Are they booked solid through next year? Can we expect this category at other Sandals hotels? If so, which one could be next?
Well, you know - we always like to be the first, and as a category leader we’ve enjoyed a lot of firsts – but what is more important is that we continue to challenge the notion of what an all-inclusive can be and, of course, continue to exceed the expectations of our guests.
And with these suites, we have done that and more. They are incredible and demand has been overwhelming. As a brand, we’ve always seen our bookings come in from the top down, but we’re tracking bookings more than 18 months out for these suites. We’ve already debuted them at Sandals Royal Caribbean and just last month at Sandals Grande St. Lucian.
By the end of the year, we’ll be bringing them to Sandals South Coast and have plans to continue their expansion to other locations in Jamaica. I have always said that being out on the water is where I am happiest, and with these suites, guests can experience a direct link to the Caribbean Sea. Pure romance.
4. Where is your favorite place to travel and why?
I truly believe that when God passed through the Caribbean, he gave special love and blessings to the islands and the people of this region. I know this is in my own backyard, but for me, nothing is better than being out on my fishing boat in the Bahamas.
5. Where are you off to next? Any personal info or news you’d like to share?
I’m going fishing in Jamaica and the Bahamas. And once school is out I’ll be heading to Europe with my family for two weeks, Turks and Caicos for a week and then spending a few days in the Eastern Caribbean. I think I might know a resort or two I can visit. But you know, as I've always said, I am a lucky man. I love what I do and so I have never worked a day in my life. It truly is the secret to success.