Saint Lucia
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Return of a Legend! Part 3

Sandals Dunn’s River offers oceans of pools to drown stresses and swim around happily with postcard scenes like this beachfront one. (PHOTO by Earl Bousquet)
Sandals Dunn’s River offers oceans of pools to drown stresses and swim around happily with postcard scenes like this beachfront one. (PHOTO by Earl Bousquet)
Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

On arrival at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort in Ocho Rios last month, I was greeted with a welcome reminder from Sandals Resorts International (SRI) Executive Chairman Adam Stewart headlined ‘We Are The Caribbean!’

The note proudly touted Sandals as “the only brand that can offer an authentic Caribbean experience”, because “we were born and raised here…”

It’s one mission: “To bring the Caribbean to the world – and the world to the Caribbean…”

That-much has been achieved across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) through Sandals’ 16 resorts spread across seven islands and employing over 18,500.

With one resort each in Antigua & Barbuda, Curacao and Grenada, two each in The Bahamas and Barbados, three in Saint Lucia and between seven and nine listed in Jamaica, everyone on each island knows or is related-to someone working with a Sandals.

Stewart promised the opening of the new Dunn’s River resort (which I was there to cover) “will touch the hearts and souls of a whole new generation of travelers.”

He recalled it was “along this incredible stretch of Ocho Rios beach” that his dad (Sandals Founder Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart) grew-up, “a place close to his heart, filled with family, friends — and some really big dreams…”

Opening Night (May 19) was a commemoration of the fulfilment of a Butch’s Big Dream: Return of the legendary Arawak Hotel (earlier successfully managed by Sandals) to the SRI fold, in a much-bigger way than ever-imagined by he who dreamed-it-up — and those who thought it impossible.

From the Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston to the Presidents, CEOs and Managing Directors of American Airlines, Air Canada and the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), it was also a night of reassurances about continuity of four decades of mutually-beneficial corporate relationship(s).

It was also a celebration of SRI’s construction of a 40-year-old mega tourism and hospitality management machine that builds and runs high-end resorts at affordable costs – and guarantees visitors eternally-memorable vacations.

SRI weds its Caribbean properties to their immediate surroundings, introducing greenery to dry patches and integrating flora and fauna – from rare and colorful tropical flowers and plants, to guests pleasantly sharing breakfast with Bajan Birds at Sandals Barbados, feeding Antillean Iguanas at Sandals Royal Curacao, watching brightly-colored Tilapias grow in open ponds at Sandals Ochi Beach, or noting the clock-like timeliness of grateful felines feasting gracefully on tasty leftovers left outside bungalows by guests.

Dunn’s River 2 also offers new features, including a roundhouse rooftop with sky-gazing stethoscopes for those wishing to view The Milky Way from SRI’s latest Caribbean paradise location.

SRI simply titillates resort guests, starting with daily orientation updates on Martini Evenings, Wine Tasting, Restaurants and Bars, Exclusive Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Cocktail Parties, In-room Bars, 24-hour access to Club Sandals Lounges, a self-driven Mini Cooper – and full access to 16 international-standard American and Caribbean, European and Asian dining outlets.

Also listed are Spas, Tours, Excursions, Land and Water Sports, Pools and Whirlpools, Romantic Experiences (including Weddings and Honeymoons), Exclusive Dining and Personal Photography, Non-stop Music and Dancing, S/hops and Retail outlets.

Club Sandals concierges will also remind you after registering (like I was): “Now the fun part begins – do whatever you like, or do nothing at all… Our only rule is that you relax and take full advantage of the unlimited amenities…”

Another magnetic attraction: Each guest has SRI’s patented assurance that on islands with more than one resort (Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Bahamas and Barbados) they can ‘Stay at One and Play at All!”

Sandals is good for Jamaica — and the wider Caribbean.

Jamaica is among the Top Ten destinations for American travelers (74.7% of 2022 arrivals were from the USA) and Sandals has brought more (visitors) to the island than any other local or Caribbean tourism entity.

Besides, Sandals Corporate University offers over 100 diplomas; and the decade-old philanthropic Sandals Foundation donated over US $80 million to good island causes in 2022.

Jamaica’s veteran Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett noted (on Opening Night) that the new Sandals Dunn’s River was “well-timed”, coming just ahead of the island’s “strongest summer season since 2019.”

He disclosed Jamaica is also about to embark on a wider global tourism road-show in the USA, Canada, South America, India and the Middle East regions; and the government is thus positioning itself to work with industry stakeholders on new global fronts.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness also announced plans to mount a global diplomatic corporate offensive to push tourism and grow the economy – and explained why (a fortnight earlier) he’d appointed the SRI Executive Chairman as the island’s first ‘Ambassador and Special Envoy for Tourism’ – one of five such new positions given to related Jamaican visionaries, to take their homeland’s economic, trade and technological diplomatic offensives beyond traditional norms and career protocols.

Elections were nowhere in the air that night, but Jamaica’s Opposition Leader Bruce Golding re-assured all that should Regime Change benefit his party sooner than later, it too will honour national commitments to SRI.

All in all, SRI’s winning portfolio isn’t limited to sand, sea, sun and beaches, but its resorts all feature international conference centers — from the William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom at Sandals Saint Lucia Grande and Spa (inaugurated by the US President himself), to the various ones in Jamaica that have previously hosted grand World Travel Awards (WTA) celebrations.

No surprise, therefore, that over the past three decades, SRI’s resorts have — every year — won ‘The Best’ in each category nominated at the prestigious WTA ceremonies.

WTA was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries and is today recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence.

No surprise therefore, that the 2023 WTA Caribbean and Americas Gala Ceremony will be hosted at the Sandals Grande Saint Lucian Resort and Spa, on August 26.

Saint Lucia’s Good-to-Go!