Enjoy the ride
Sandals kicks into Overdrive
(Photo above: Pictured on stage (l-r) at the Sandals Overdrive event receiving the 2017 Agents’ Choice Awards for favourite All-inclusive and Responsible Travel Company from Baxter Travel Media’s David McClung are Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Maureen Barnes-Smith and Adam Stewart.)
From approved plans to build simultaneous Sandals and Beaches branded resorts in Trinidad and Tobago to the unique features set for Sandals Royal Barbados – the all-suite property slated to open on Dec. 20 complete with a rooftop pool and bar, and a four-lane bowling alley – Sandals Resorts International rolled into Toronto last week to give 450 travel agents and industry personnel the scoop on what’s to come from the luxury-included vacation provider.
“We’ve had this desire to outperform our best work. Sandals is not in competition with some of the other all-inclusives out there, Sandals is actually in competition with itself, with its last project, with what it did before, prior, how do you keep elevating the bar?” Adam Stewart, the CEO and deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International told those gathered at the company’s #SandalsOverdrive unveiling event. “And then as you elevate the bar in the new hotel, you’ve got to go back in the existing hotels and make them better.”
Some of the projects and updates in the works include a fourth resort underway in Saint Lucia, the reopening of Beaches Turks & Caicos on Dec. 14, the continued development of more over-the-water suites, the launch of on-site food trucks, including one serving mac and cheese, and new commissionable Sandals Wedding options, which allow clients to completely customize their wedding.
In addition to learning about the latest offerings, Gary Sadler, senior vice-president of sales for Unique Vacations Inc., told Travel Courier the evening served another purpose: to highlight how vital travel agents are to the company’s success.
“The goal tonight is really to thank the travel agents in Canada for all the work they do to make Sandals and Beaches Resorts such a strong company. With the help of travel agents, we’ll always be successful,” he said. “We’re telling you about the new updates that we have for our products, all the brand new things that are coming on stream, but a key to it is that our chairman is present, our CEO is present, and they’re here to send a very simple strong plain message that the travel agents in Canada are extremely important to us.”
During the event, David McClung, president of Baxter Travel Media, presented Sandals with the 2017 Agents’ Choice Awards for favourite All-Inclusive, sweeping the category since its inception 18 years ago, and favourite Responsible Travel Company.
“We try our best to provide what we call a bullet-proof product, meaning you go there and everybody enjoys themselves, and if there’s ever a problem, we’re going to look after you,” said chairman and founder Gordon “Butch” Stewart, accepting the award. “We love Canada, we love the travel agents, they’re our backbone. Thank you!”
The Overdrive event, part of a 23-city North American roadshow that travelled across 19,400 miles and brought together more than 6,000 agents, featured a strong showing of nearly 50 executive staff and members from Sandals and Beaches properties across the Caribbean, and representatives from all of the destinations in its portfolio, including Saint Lucia’s tourism minister Dominic Fedee.
“Sandals has become this unbelievable force, this force of wanting to do things differently. We are a hotel company that has been built by a labour of love,” says the younger Stewart. “We spend way, way, way more time designing a hotel because we’re not just trying to build something we’ve already built on a beach. So that’s where you see innovation come from, that’s where you see us spend eight years to pioneer and get true over-the-water bungalows for the first time in the history of 70 years of tourism in the Caribbean.”