29 NOV 2013: “To say it’s been a crazy year is an understatement,” says Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International, who has been described by the local media back home in Jamaica, as a ‘maverick on a mission.’

Just when you thought Sandals and Beaches Resorts had everything covered, couples can get ready for more ‘Sandalizing’ from the luxury-included all-inclusive resort chain.

Adam and Gordon (Butch) Stewart, chairman and founder, provided a snapshot of upcoming developments at a media luncheon hosted by Coastal International at the illustrious One Restaurant in tony Yorkville.

It was a big deal with a brigade of 50 Sandals staff swooping into the north from the sunny tropics to inspire us with the niceties of the Caribbean. Canada is an important marketplace for Sandals and they want us to know that they appreciate it.

What's up

On the lovebird side with its notable romantic backdrops expect a couple of new Sandals destinations: Barbados and Grenada. I hear you can expect lots of fire and water and more fire and water at places like the new Sandals La Source Grenada and Spa.

On the kid-friendly side at Beaches Resorts there’s Big Bird and his Sesame Street gang celebrating 10 years next year with its ‘sunny days.’ Kids can enjoy the added thrills of water amusement parks and then there’s all the nanny help overworked parents could want at Beaches.

Here’s more:

Notable Sandals accolades

Adam Stewart reminded us butler service in the Caribbean was first introduced by Sandals with the introduction of the Guild of Professional English Butlers. “It was never in the Caribbean before we signed our name with (them).” Then there’s the reinvention of concierge service. Forget cold food from room service. “This year we reinvented concierge services with Club Sandals where we spent $5 million on kitchens close to our accommodations.”

Meanwhile Butch Stewart looks at the “Love Nest” dream suites concept and equates them to the Steve Martin character in the “Father of the Bride” movie. “We built the love nests suites just for daughters like Steve Martin and the millions of dads who want the best for their daughters,” he says and explains only the finest romantic locations were chosen.

Grenada: New Sandals La Source Grenada and Spa

For years the Stewart’s wooed this Caribbean nation. There was a property they had their eye on but it wasn’t meant to be until recently. “So as history would have it, 13 years later we were able to buy Sandals La Source Grenada.”

They don’t call it Pink Gin Beach for nothing. The resort arguably has been pegged as Sandals most luxurious property to date. Watch for an elaborate dining spread (nine restos including Sandals’ very first attempt at a steakhouse. “In Grenada we wanted to do something totally different. This steakhouse at this hotel will challenge the best steakhouse in North America anywhere. Fire all around the pool,” declares Adam on the ambiance and meaty gastronomy. “If the food isn’t good I’ll probably be fired.”

Other notables: the Red Lane Spa, a fitness centre, room pools and only 225 rooms situated in three villages: Pink Gin, Italian and South Seas. Watch for 2,500 pound stone bathtubs at the Italian Village. “(It fits) two people to create families to hopefully come to Beaches. See we have it all figured out. It’s all about integration,” Adam smiles.

Opening date: December 12

Sandals Barbados

This 280 suite luxury resort is in heavy ‘Sandalizing’ mode. Expect changes to the design, watch for new restaurants and more. The former Couples Resort in an earlier incarnation was the Almond Casuarina. “In January we’re building five additional restaurants. We’re going to build our first ever Indian restaurant.”

Opening date: November 6

Beaches Resorts

Around since 1997, the family resort brand currently has three properties: two in Jamaica and one in Turks and Caicos Islands. Big Bird and friends will celebrate 10 years as the brand’s exclusive Beaches Resorts Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street programme. Education is big. Adam explained how Sesame Street still remains the largest not for profit education foundation in the world. “Our sponsorship of Sesame Street is what (helps) contribute to them being on television worldwide to help kids and lift them up.”

Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa

The all-inclusive resort company purchased a previous upscale luxury condo residence and has revamped it into the new Key West Luxury Village ready to accommodate three to four bedroom units ideal for larger families. Watch for new butler cabanas circling the pool of the French Village and more enhancements at the Pirates Island Waterpark which Adam adds is the largest skyslide in the Caribbean.

Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Golf Club completed a three year $30-million renovation. True it was an older hotel but Adam notes the transformation is ‘astonishing.’ “It is a hotel with a huge future to it.”

Beaches Barbados

The music world might have Ms. Rihanna as Bajan tourism ambassador - but kids can expect a new Beaches property in Barbados. The old Almond Beach Village in St. Peter is now set for total demolition and Adam adds the new build starts in nine months. “It’s everything you have come to know in Beaches, the waterpark, Xbox, our association with Sesame Street but now they are moving to another level with movie cinemas, and BMX bike tracks never done before,” says Adam adding Beaches is for families. “Everything we do is designed for kids.”

Agent protection

Adam reiterated the value of travel agents in the marketplace. “There’s no other company that protects travel agents like Sandals does when it comes to no discounting. You have to protect the travel agent so that nobody down the road will give discounts and sell that product less than they do.”

He assured the company’s commitment toward agents is strong. “Our relationship with the travel agent continues to grow.”

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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