Travel Webcast

The Industry Remembers Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart

There has been an outpouring of sympathy and kind words by the Caribbean travel and tourism industry following the passing of Sandals Resorts International’s founder, the Honourable Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) said in a statement that:

“It is with great sadness that the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has learned of the death of Jamaican and Caribbean hospitality icon, Gordon “Butch” Stewart. The CTO member countries, allied members and staff join the government and people of Jamaica, the Stewart family, the Sandals family, and the regional and international tourism and hospitality sector in mourning his passing.”

“Mr. Stewart has been a faithful and passionate servant of Caribbean tourism for four decades and his dedication was fully demonstrated through his many outstanding achievements. His was a virtual lifetime of high performance, devotion to country and the Caribbean and commitment to excellence in the hospitality sector.”

“To quote his son, Adam, Mr. Stewart was a “gifted entrepreneur,” a “marketing genius,” and “a dreamer who could dream bigger and better than anyone.” There is no greater testament to this than his success as the founder and leader of the world-renowned Sandals and Beaches resort brands, along with the innovations he brought to these brands.”

“Mr. Stewart was a mentor to many, and his contributions have touched almost every sector of Jamaican and Caribbean society. His passing is a great loss to the entire region. He was a true travel and tourism and business icon and his legacy will shape future generations.”

The Jamaica Tourist Board remembered Sandals’ founder, writing:

“Jamaica and the entire tourism world has lost an icon and travel and tourism visionary with the passing of Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart on Monday evening. The Jamaica Tourist Board offers sincere condolences to his widow Cheryl, his seven children, immediate and extended family, and the wider tourism community.” 

The JTB’s Chairman, John Lynch – who worked with Stewart for decades — reflecting on his passing, spoke of his commitment to excellence.

Said Lynch: “I have had the privilege of working with Mr. Stewart over many years, and his passion and vision for tourism in Jamaica and across the wider Caribbean region is unparalleled. He will be remembered for his groundbreaking work in growing the all-inclusive concept here and in the Caribbean and we’re confident his rich legacy will be preserved.”

The JTB statement continued: “Stewart was a leader in the hospitality industry, influencing the all-inclusive resort in a way that reshaped the notion of luxury. He was an extraordinary businessman and professional who cared genuinely about tourism and the many who benefited from the industry. He was not only a champion of hospitality, but his philanthropy and generous spirit was evident in many other areas of his life, having contributed to education and to community with the establishment of the Sandals Foundation.”

It noted that “here at the Jamaica Tourist Board, we benefitted from his business acumen as he served two stints as a member of the Board of Director. From September 1984 to March 1986 and February 1989 to July 1997, his significant contribution helped to make Jamaica a world-class destination.”

Donovan White, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism, said that: “The industry has lost a tourism giant, and though I never had the privilege of working with Mr. Stewart, I feel like I know him personally, because the evidence of his hard work, passion, love for Jamaica, dedication and commitment to excellence is unmistakably evident around us.”

White continued: “Jamaica and the Caribbean have benefitted significantly from his insights and investment in travel and tourism and there are many who’ve attested to the impact of his tutelage. Jamaica’s tourism is richer for his exceptional leadership and unstoppable vision and we will continue to build on that rich legacy. We wish his family and the wider tourism and business community strength and comfort during this time. May his soul rest in peace and God grant strength to his bereaved family.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Governor Albert Bryan Jr. offered his condolences stating:

“The people and government of the U.S. Virgin Islands join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to the family of the Honorable Gordon “Butch” Stewart, whose passing reminds us of the momentous achievements he recorded as he helped build tourism into the Caribbean’s major economic driver. We also remember that while he propelled the growth of tourism he did so in a way that increased local control to ensure its profits benefitted Caribbean people and their communities. He is carried into the arms of his Lord with our respect, affection and gratitude.” 

Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism, U.S. Virgin Islands, observed:

“The Honorable Gordon “Butch” Stewart was our bold champion who spread across the Caribbean the message that high-end sustainable tourism can enrich our destinations and our people. Indeed, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has been discussing with his team the prospect of hosting one of his elegant resorts here in the Territory. An important attraction for me was the fact that he not only produced first-class resorts, but he also insisted on training and promoting local people to run them. That message resonates deeply, and we will all benefit from this great man’s work.”

A tribute from the Hopkin Family

Noting that the Caribbean has lost another of its greatest innovators, progressive thinkers and dreamers, Janelle Hopkin, President and Managing Director of Spice Island Beach Resort, in Grenada, reflected that with the loss of such a dynamic, charismatic, and larger-than-life figure, such as “Butch” Stewart, the Caribbean hotel community has once again witnessed the passing of an icon.”

Hopkin is the daughter of the late renown hotelier, Sir Royston Hopkin who died suddenly in February 2020.

She said that; “Men like my father, and Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, were far ahead of their time in terms of taking their dreams and turning them into great legacies. They shared an unwavering friendship and never saw each other as being a competitor, but rather as necessary components of the Caribbean luxury hotel sector. Together they spent many decades as trailblazers of the hotel industry in the region and my father often credited ‘Butch’ with defining the term ‘All-Inclusive’ and setting the benchmark for fully-inclusive luxury Caribbean holidays, resulting in the beloved ‘Sandals’ brand being known worldwide.”

She continued: “They each have now left their indelible stamp on the hotel and tourism sectors in the Caribbean for future generations. My father considered him a true brother and a ‘giant of a man’ who shared his philosophy, ‘that it was not about hotels but hospitality.’”

Hopkin said that: “My mother, Lady Betty Hopkin, and my family, will always have many fond memories of ‘Butch’ and his enduring friendship with Sir Royston and our family. His warmth was infectious, whether it was at one of his many visits to our family’s resort, or when we would meet at Caribbean hotel conferences around the region. Our thoughts are with his wife, Cheryl, and his entire family as they must now take comfort in the knowledge that the passion and legacy of Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has forever changed the tourism landscape of the Caribbean.”

She continued: “Indeed, we were honoured that he was present to mark Sir Royston’s 75th birthday celebration held at his home in Grenada last year just a few short weeks before his passing.”

Antigua & Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism & Investments, the Hon Charles H. Fernandez said that:

“Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was a Caribbean giant in the tourism industry. It is often forgotten that, despite his humble beginnings, he competed against the biggest names in tourism to build a successful and respected network of hotels across the Caribbean.”

“That undertaking was not easy. It required a special person with unique skills and committed drive to successfully overcome the challenges from established institutions, and to carve a universally known brand name.”

“Butch Stewart was all of that and more. He was a Jamaican – a land to which he was deeply committed, but he regarded the Caribbean as his wider fraternal community.”

“Antigua and Barbuda was pleased to welcome one of his first Sandals ventures outside of Jamaica and, without a shred of doubt, the standards he established made a significant contribution to the growth of our tourism.”

“We join his relatives and the Sandals family across the region in mourning the falling of a true Caribbean champion and hero.”

 

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation offered its sympathies in a statement:

“The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation extends sincere condolences on the passing of Gordon “Butch” Stewart.” 

“Two decades ago, the visionary Jamaican hotelier Butch Stewart brought the Sandals brand to The Bahamas and joined hands with us in building a leading tourism destination.”

“Today, as we mourn the passing of a global trailblazer in the hospitality industry, we are singularly proud and grateful for the legacy that Butch Stewart has bequeathed to us in The Bahamas. Butch impacted our national economy by directing the crafting of a signature vacation experience — the Sandals vacation — which has become an integral part of the tourism product of The Islands of The Bahamas.” 

“Butch Stewart’s contribution to The Bahamas over the past twenty years has been national in scope and deeply personal to the lives of thousands of our fellow Bahamians who, through employment with the Sandals brands, have built sustainable careers, homes and families. Sandals International continues to impact our local community through ongoing philanthropic outreach.” 

Minister of Tourism & Aviation, Dionisio D’Aguilar said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Butch Stewart, a key partner in our tourism enterprise who has left an indelible mark on the Bahamas’s hospitality sector. Butch’s vision for hospitality will live on to be enjoyed by future guests at Nassau’s Sandals Royal Bahamian as well as Sandals Emerald Bay and Fowl Cay Resort in Exuma.”

“History will record Gordon “Butch” Stewart as a game changer in the delivery of the globally coveted Caribbean vacation product, having elevated the all-inclusive resort model to a five star, world class experience,” the statement noted.

And it concluded: “The prayers of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, our hospitality community and fellow Bahamians go out to Butch’s family and the extended Sandals family throughout the Caribbean.”

The Hon. Deputy Premier of the Cayman Islands, Moses Kirkconnell offered a tribute to Sandals’ founder, noting that:

“Making a positive impact on the lives of others is a noble legacy and undeniably, one which the friends and family of the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart are undoubtedly proud of when thinking of him.  His vision for Sandals Resorts—one of the first all-inclusive holiday vacation opportunities in the Caribbean—along with the other endeavors in his vast portfolio created opportunities for the country of Jamaica and the Caribbean to shine in the international market.” 

The Deputy Premier continued: “As a fellow entrepreneur and colleague in tourism, it was a privilege to have had the opportunity to develop a relationship with Mr. Stewart throughout the years.  His larger-than-life personality and keen business acumen earned him the distinction of being recognized as an iconic Jamaican businessman.  Butch was a tourism magnate, earning him many accolades and national distinctions including “Travel Man of the Millennium” for his work in promoting Caribbean tourism and the Caribbean World Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in Jamaica.”

And he concluded: “On behalf of The Cayman Islands Government, Ministry and Department of Tourism, we extend our most sincere condolences to his family and friends at this time.  We celebrate the lifetime of achievements that Mr. Stewart contributed to the Caribbean. He will be missed.”

In his tribute, The Hon. Carlos James, Esq., Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Sustainable Development and Culture for St. Vincent & The Grenadines, said that:

“Gordon “Butch” Stewart was a quintessential Caribbean man. He had an eye for business, particularly in the Hospitality Industry. He was a visionary and marketing genius who brought thousands of people to the Caribbean region through his Sandals brand.  Undoubtedly, he has left a mark on the region’s tourism industry.” 

The Minister said that: “We look forward to the continued working relationship with his Sandals team, as they commence work during the year on their Beaches Resort brand in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are certain they will build on his legacy and brand their Beaches St. Vincent with his signature flair and style.”

And he concluded: “On behalf of the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, we extend our condolences to his immediate family and by extension, the Sandals family.”

 

 

 

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