SANTA BARBARA, CURACAO — The grand opening of Sandals Royal Curacao is just the start of what the legendary hospitality brand is calling ‘Sandals 2.0’, as it looks to revolutionize its Luxury Included experience across the Caribbean.
“We’re asking you all to put your seatbelts on, because the next 5 to 10 years is going to be insane,” says Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman, Sandals Resorts International.
Hosting the festivities this past weekend at Sandals Royal Curacao, Stewart took the opportunity to share the Sandals vision with industry insiders from the Caribbean, Canada, the U.S., the UK and Europe, all in attendance for this latest gala opening.
There will be many more grand openings to come, with Sandals Dunn’s River back under Sandals ownership and nearing the end of its transformation, plus more new properties in Jamaica, along with a new resort in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“As we were building on this vision for the future, this vision that we’re calling Sandals 2.0, we said, we’re going to take this brand to the moon,” said Stewart.
“Every single element of hospitality is going to be reviewed. Starting with the locations, the designs, the innovations, the services, doing things that have never quite been done in hospitality before.”
STAR TREATMENT FOR SANDALS ROYAL CURACAO
First things first: Sandals Royal Curacao got the star treatment this weekend, with a gala event following its soft opening earlier this month.
It’s the 16th property for Sandals Resorts, and its first on the island of Curaçao. Among the resort’s many highlights, Sandals Royal Curaçao offers two new signature suites, the Awa Seaside Bungalows and Kurason Island Suites. Both categories include the complimentary use of a sporty and stylish convertible MINI Cooper for guests to drive while exploring the island.
The resort is also home to Sandals’ first Dos Awa two-level infinity pool featuring views overlooking the sea and mountain landscape.
After the high-wattage gala on June 24, Stewart took a moment to talk shop while enjoying the stunning daytime views from the brand’s newest property. “Our purpose is to share the four corners of the Caribbean with the world,” he told the media. “And I can tell you, I get the honour of running around the Caribbean all day long, flying on planes and seeing what’s the best. And as you’re sitting here, as you look out here, that is about as damn good as it gets anywhere on the planet.”
Sandals Royal Curacao, with its two marinas, 351 rooms and suites and more, sits on 44 acres of a 3,000 acre estate. For Stewart and the team, it was love at first site, and the acquisition was made. “We saw something that we loved,” says Stewart.
“A DETERMINATION TO OUTPERFORM”
Today Sandals Resorts owns the largest land mass of Caribbean real estate of any company, adds Stewart. “And it is the best of the best.”
That goes for the Sandals Resorts team as well. Core to the brand’s success are its people. Says Stewart: “A team of over 15,000, moving to over 18,000 next year, that have been there step by step, that lead everything and who we are. And at the centre of that, is a determination to out-perform and out-innovate anybody else.”
Sandals Resorts’ connection to the Caribbean goes all the way back to the early 1980s and company founder and industry visionary Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
As his son notes in an interview in the special Sandals Resorts 40th Anniversary issue, produced in partnership with Travelweek, “what started with a big dream and one resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1981, has transformed into a beloved household name around the world. … My dad didn’t believe in the word ‘impossible’. He was the extraordinary combination of a dreamer and a doer.”
Sandals Resorts’ deep Caribbean roots are part of the company’s DNA. As Stewart put it this past weekend: “We are quintessentially from and of the Caribbean, as a brand.”
Never a company to rest on its laurels, one of the latest innovations from Sandals Resorts underlines its strong connection – and commitment – to support its Caribbean partners.
It’s called ‘Island Inclusive,’ and its the brand’s first-ever off-site dining program, and now available at Sandals Royal Curaçao. Valid on seven-night minimum stays, the program is available exclusively to guests who are booked in Butler suites, as well as Sandals Select Reward Members (Diamond, Pearl, Ambassadors Club levels), offering one US$250 voucher to dine out at one of the eight partner restaurants, with off-site roundtrip transportation included. The curated restaurant selection varies from chic gastro bars to international fusion restaurants, to more classic establishments serving elegant cuisine paired with ocean views.
So often all-inclusive resort guests dine exclusively on-property, while local restauranteurs are eager for the business. Island Inclusive looks to be a win-win for all.
“At this resort, you can sign out free of charge a convertible MINI, and drive into Willemstad, and you can have dinner, at a multitude of restaurants, on the house, on us. The best restaurants on the island, all included in your all-inclusive package,” says Stewart.
MORE NEW RESORTS ON THE WAY
While Sandals Royal Curacao is the latest grand opening, there will be more to come, says Stewart.
The company broke ground on the multi-million dollar transformation of Sandals Dunn’s River back in May 2021, and the results will be revealed soon. Sandals Dunn’s River is the first of three resorts coming to Jamaica as part of an ambitious development project valued at US$230 million.
Sandals Dunn’s River opened in 1991, but not under Sandals ownership. That’s something that the team decided had to change. “We didn’t own that hotel. My father and the team made a decision back in ’05, ’06 that we were going to own our assets, we wanted to invest in our assets,” says Stewart.
He adds: “During the pandemic we bought five hotels. There’s a saying, ‘never waste a good crisis’. And we surely didn’t intend on wasting the past two years that we went through.”
Sandals Dunn’s River will be a winner, and then some. “We’re going to announce its opening day soon, because it’s getting to that stage, it’s going to be the next new Sandals Resort,” said Stewart. “Skypool Suites. Rondoval Suites with Rooftop Terraces. It’s going to have the next generation of design.”
Phase II of the US$230 million development in Jamaica will comprise the development of sister-property Sandals Royal Dunn’s River, which will sit adjacent to Sandals Dunn’s River and offer generous exchange privileges. Sandals Royal Dunn’s River is slated for completion in 2023 with approximately 250 rooms and suites. SRI is also planning a $250+ million renovation of its third new location in Ocho Rios. Beaches Runaway Bay Resort will be the third family-friendly Beaches Resort in Jamaica.
Meanwhile St. Vincent and the Grenadines will soon welcome a Beaches Resorts property. In July 2020 SRI announced its acquisition of Buccament Bay Spa and Resort, closed since 2016. The property will be completely transformed. “Just like Curacao, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a diamond in the Caribbean. This is a completely untapped and untouched destination that you have to see for yourself,” says Stewart.
Also in the pipeline are renovation projects for Sandals Negril, Beaches Negril, Sandals Royal Plantation, Beaches Turks and Caicos and Sandals Halcyon.