Last week, Sandals Executive Chairman Adam Stewart stood before a crowd of media and travel professionals gathered at his company’s newest property, Sandals Royal Curaçao, and reflected on the legacy of his father, the late Butch Stewart, as well as the future ahead for the all-inclusive brand.
“We’re asking you all to put your seatbelts on because the next 5 to 10 years is going to be insane,” he said, teasing several new properties on the horizon.
The elder Stewart started Sandals in 1981 with a humble 99-room hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The company now boasts 16 all-inclusive resorts across the Caribbean under the Sandals and Beaches brands.
Under Butch Stewart’s leadership, the company invested heavily in real estate throughout the Caribbean over the past four decades with an eye to future expansion. His son has carried on that mission, most recently buying resorts that were financially suffering during COVID-19 and fully renovating them as Sandals or Beaches properties (the former Santa Barbara Resort Curaçao, now Sandals Royal Curaçao, is one example).
In addition to Sandals Royal Curaçao (which represents the first Dutch Caribbean resort in the Sandals portfolio) Adam Stewart mentioned a new resort currently under construction in Jamaica with brand new suite categories, a new Beaches resort in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and renovations and upgrades to existing properties, to elevate the brand to what Stewart calls “Sandals 2.0.” Official details on these resorts are forthcoming.
The company anticipates expanding its number of employees, which Stewart underscored are fundamental to the brand’s mission, from 15,000 to 18,000 in the next year.
“We’re going to take this brand to the moon,” he said. “Every single element of hospitality, starting with the locations, the designs, the services … we’re [going to do] things that have never quite been done in hospitality before.”
Some previews of some of what those new Sandals ventures might include are Island Inclusive, a program debuting at Sandals Royal Curaçao which invites guests with top-tier loyalty status or certain suites to utilize a free credit to dine at restaurants outside the resort.
Another program invites guests to enjoy complimentary use of a MINI Cooper convertible to explore the island.
There is also a concerted effort to infuse this newest resort with elements of the local culture, whether incorporating local language into the names or featuring local cuisine on the menus. At Sandals Royal Curaçao, guests are greeted by a larger-than-life sculpture created by a local artist of a voluptuous woman known locally as Chichi, a symbol of a caring older sister known throughout the island. She’s painted with designs representing the unique Dutch-Caribbean culture here. Upon exiting the bus, guests receive lemongrass-scented cool towels and a blue Curaçao cocktail.
These programs seem to address the need among younger generations of travelers specifically to explore authentic local experiences while still enjoying the comforts and amenities of an all-inclusive resort. The future of all-inclusive resorts isn’t about walling off the local community; it’s about inviting it in and making it easier for guests to get out to explore.
Stewart, a sixth-generation Jamaican, mentioned the high rate of return clientele as confirmation of the brand’s direction. “Our purpose is to share the four corners of the Caribbean with the world,” he said.