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October 03, 2021 , Sandals Resorts, 40th Anniversary

The Story of Sandals®: Love, Trust and Exceeding Expectations

The story of Sandals begins with the story of its founder, Gordon “Butch” Stewart.

Long before Butch Stewart became a titan of Caribbean tourism, he sold air conditioners, building an appliance and manufacturing empire in his native Jamaica that would eclipse the competition.   Through innovation, remarkable instinct, and outstanding customer service - the recipe of his lifelong success, Appliance Traders Ltd. (ATL), the firm he founded in 1968, distinguished itself early.  It also brought Stewart back to the “North Coast,” Jamaica’s scintillating string of white sand beaches that is the mecca of Jamaica’s tourism industry and the beaches where he grew up.

Here, Stewart expanded ATL beyond residential to commercial, servicing the country’s growing resort areas.   He did not and could not know at the time that he was preparing not only to serve the sector, but to transform it. In 1973, the die was cast when Jamaica’s then government stipulated that foreign exchange for imports was limited to foreign exchange earners.  Stewart needed a vehicle through which he could earn American dollars.  Tourism became that ticket.

In April 1981, buoyed by a fresh political climate he believed ripe for business but with absolutely no hotel experience, Stewart purchased the Bay Roc in Montego Bay, Jamaica, a rundown hotel, next door to the airport, that would become Sandals Montego Bay.   

His decision was met with incredulity tourism industry insiders.  But Stewart had vision.  He grew up by the sea and while he may not have understood the intricacies of traditional hospitality, he knew a fantastic beach when he saw one.  So, he approached this business with the same simple philosophy he created and shared many times: “Find out what people want, give it to them and in doing so - exceed their expectations.

Seven months and $4 million in renovations later, Sandals Montego Bay opened as the flagship of what is today, the most popular award-winning, all-inclusive resort chain in the world.  Stewart has never laid claim to starting the all-inclusive concept, couples-only format, but he is recognized worldwide for the consistent innovation and unsurpassed level of luxury he has brought to the all-inclusive experience. 

Where other “all-inclusives” at the time offered meals and rooms at a set rate, Sandals Resorts’ prices covered gourmet dining options, premium brand drinks, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and watersport activities.  The competition meals were buffet-style, so Stewart created on-property specialty restaurants with high culinary standards and “white-glove service.”  Sandals Resorts was also the first Caribbean hotel company to offer whirlpools and satellite television service, the first with swim-up pool bars and the first to guarantee that every room is fitted with a king-size bed and a hair dryer.   

Other innovations would come, such as the brand’s signature spa concept – Red Lane® Spa, signature luxury suites including the revolutionary over-the-water concepts designed for privacy and ultimate pampering, and signature partnerships with iconic organizations such as PADI, Robert Mondavi, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, and the London-based Guild of Professional English Butlers. 

Sandals Montego Bay was an opportunity born out of necessity but by steadfastly adhering to his “We can do it better” principle, Stewart fostered an idea that became one of the world’s most recognized brands. 

That company, which has become Sandals Resorts International, is parent to the Caribbean’s leading luxury all-inclusive resorts including adult, couples-only Sandals Resorts and family-friendly Beaches Resorts, and the organization behind Your Jamaican Villas and private island resort Fowl Cay. 

Today, the Caribbean company that Gordon “Butch” Stewart built continues in his tradition, giving people the freedom to imagine and freedom to consistently raise the bar.  It is a practice that has earned the love and trust of travel advisor partners and countless guests who continue to choose Sandals Resorts. 

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