From Hotels to Ships? Sandals Boss Interested in Cruise Business

Sandals chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart


KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday July 20, 2017 – Sandals is renowned as the Caribbean’s leading all-inclusive resort chain and now its chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has hinted he’s ready to take his brand to the high seas.

In an interview with UK Travel Weekly, the hotel magnate suggested that luxury cruises could be the next big business venture for Sandals.

“Nobody has got a better land-based product in terms of quality and service and we can translate that [to the ocean],” he said.

It’s not the first time Sandals is thinking of entering the cruise sector. Stewart confirmed it was on the hotel’s agenda more than a decade ago but the idea was shelved just before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

“We were virtually on the water with our own ships, but we had to put the plans away. We have since spent time refining the opportunities and services that we can offer,” he said.

Since then, Stewart said the hotel has been conducting “a huge amount of research” into the lucrative cruise sector, which generates millions of dollars of revenue for Caribbean tourism destinations.

He did not disclose a timeline for the new business proposition but suggested that Sandals was unlikely to go for mega ships and that the sailings would be combined with vacation stays at a Sandals property.

“We never go for huge hotels,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Stewart has set his sights on expanding his brand across the Caribbean, amid reports two months ago that Sandals had hired investment bank Deutsche Bank AG to explore several options, including the sale of majority stake in the company.

Stewart did not address the issue in the interview, but revealed that he would like to increase the number of new refurbished hotel openings a year.

“I don’t want 50 [hotels], but maybe close,” he told the UK publication. “I don’t need to open five or six a year, because I want to run them properly. We spend $100 million a year modernizing and upgrading and the whole chain reflects that. We open or reopen one or two a year; we might bring that up to three to four.”

Sandals is expected to break ground on a Beaches family resort in Barbados next year.

It is expected to roll out its fourth resort in St Lucia, the Sandals LaSource St Lucia by year end, and plans are afoot to construct a 750-room property in Tobago.

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