|Gordon "Butch" Stewart, Sandals Resorts International's founder and chairman, and author Joe Pike|
It feels like the same scenario plays out every year. Right around the third or fourth quarter of the fiscal year, when the rest of the world's hoteliers are looking ahead to meeting end-of-the-year budgets, Sandals Resorts International Chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart is poised to strike.
It's nothing new for the founder of perhaps the Caribbean's most successful chain of all-inclusive resorts. After all, this is the same man and the same company that was taking over resorts in 2009 when the rest of the industry was stalling projects by the minute.
It was that year that Stewart and his bright team of executives, including son, Adam Stewart, CEO, took over the headlines with two deals alone. The Sandals team solidified their place on top of two Caribbean niches that year, luxury and romance, by inking deals with two huge names in both categories – Four Seasons and Martha Stewart.
The first announcement in 2009 was revealed to us in August of that year when Sandals purchased the shuttered Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay for an undisclosed sum, although rumor has it Butch got a nice deal. In fact, Adam Stewart told me, Sandals paid a deposit and closed a deal within 50 days of the property's closing.
Shorty after, the company announced a partnership with the face of all weddings, Martha Stewart. Sandals and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia introduced Sandals Weddings by Martha Stewart. Like every big franchise with big pockets and brains, Sandals took a dark year and made it one of the brightest moments in the company’s recent history.
As for 2012, Sandals was at it again. Right around November when all was quiet on the Caribbean hotel news front, Sandals announced it would be expanding to a new island in the Caribbean. The company announced it would be taking over LaSource, a popular luxury resort in Grenada. LaSource officially closed its doors recently due to lingering financial woes.
Travel Agent first got word that Sandals was planning a move to Grenada last year when we sat down with Adam Stewart. Stewart told us back then that Sandals was considering expansions to both Barbados and Grenada. And with Grenada already confirmed, agents should keep on eye on a possible Sandals expansion to Barbados.
“Whether this is two years from now or five years from now, these are two destinations we can definitely see ourselves in,” Stewart told us back in June of 2011. “When we looked at them, we looked at the usual things we look for in finding a great location for a resort, mainly a great beach."
And when the travel world was still digesting the Grenada news, Sandals Resorts International announced in early December the purchase of The Veranda Resorts & Residences in Turks and Caicos, a luxury property with oceanfront views along Grace Bay.
The purchase was an expansion of the award-winning Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa, which was re-introduced as the Key West Luxury Village on December 17. The Key West Luxury Village features studios, multi-bedroom suites and villas and will be the first major addition to the property since the grand opening of the resort's Italian Village in 2009. In addition to the 16 restaurants currently on property, guests will now have access to three new gourmet-dining establishments through the expansion, as well as a number of other luxurious amenities.
As far as 2013 goes, in the words of rock legends, "The Who," Travel Agent "won't be fooled again." We anticipate another mega announcement from the all-inclusive giants. Our safe bet is on an expansion to Barbados, something Adam Stewart has hinted at for more than a year now.