Sandals LaSource has officially opened its doors months after accepting its first set of visitors to the spanking six-star luxury facility.
At a well-attended ceremony Monday night, the driving force behind the Sandals brand, Gordon “Butch” Stewart was toasted by the over 600 persons invited to the grand opening ceremony.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell praised the top Jamaican and Caribbean hotelier for the wonders he has done to the local tourism industry.
“I’m extremely happy and excited (about) the prospects that this brand has brought and will bring to our beautiful country….”, Dr. Mitchell told the specially invited guests.
“…Over the last year and a half or so, we have watched the giant of a business and this business giant, Butch Stewart, transform our hotel landscape and by so doing you’ve helped to reverse to some extent, the economic outlook of our country,” he said.
Although the Sandals entry into Grenada started under the former Congress government of Tillman Thomas, new Prime Minister Mitchell who campaigned on a promise of job creation was delighted about the hundreds of jobs provided to locals at the Point Salines luxury hotel.
“We have seen right here at Sandals, the provision of hundreds of jobs for our young people – no not just jobs, but highly skilled jobs”, he said.
“Employment which obliges our people to improve on their level of service and practices, employment which provides a platform for upward mobility in their areas of expertise,” he added.
Dr. Mitchell noted that there are lots of untapped potential in the hotel sector and that “all the successful and ambitious hoteliers island wide need to come to terms with the view that the pool is large enough for all.
“Sandals has built on the successes of our existing hoteliers and presented us with prime opportunities for partnerships. Every additional hotel investment, if managed effectively, can be a win a win-win for all hoteliers, and for the country,” he remarked.
Tourism Minister Alexandria Otway-Noel who also addressed the gathering acknowledged that the Sandals brand in Grenada will assist the island as it embarks on initiatives to reposition itself under its new brand of ‘Pure Grenada.”
“This new brand captures everything we have to offer in our destination…this brand embraces everything we hold dear and Sandals is offering an experience that fits within our brand,” she said while explaining that Grenada has experienced increase arrival for the first quarter of 2014.
“In the first quarter of 2014 we have already seen 6.1% growth in the Canadian market and a 6.4% growth in our European market and we’re looking for growth out of the US market this month,” she said.
Sandals chief executive officer Adam Stewart promised Otway that his company will not disappoint in the promotion of the island.
“Will will not let you down, Grenada we will take you to the world,” he said.
According to Stewart, it brings great joy to him recognising that his fathers dream has been made a reality.
“14 years ago I just started university, we came and we looked at the land across the road and it just didn’t make sense to my dad and I remember getting the phone call saying LaSource is an option and it is a possibility,” he said.
The heir apparent to the Sandals throne told the gathering that, “every ounce of creativity that we had went into this resort and we think that we have created a phenomenal resort here in Grenada.”
He said his dad is on a mission that he has to outdo himself every time he takes up a project.
“People always say to us what’s the end game, none of us knows what the end game is but what we know is that we have been able to create a team under his leadership that is unrivaled, every room here, every bungalow, every pool, the master planning of this resort belongs to him,” he said.
The highlight of the opening ceremony was the presentation of a Six Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Science.
“We hover the world looking for only the finest properties and the relationship of the American academy with Sandals extends back over 24 years and we are so proud to be here at this property which is taking hospitality to a new level,” said Karen Dickson, a representative from the American Academy of Hospitality.
Having wanted LaSource for years, when it was finally acquired, Butch transformed LaSource into a Sandals Miracle.
Close friend of the Stewart family, local businessman Michael McIntyre recalled that it was a task getting Butch to set up shop in Grenada.
According to McIntyre, after seeking two places, one of which is Cinnamon Hill, Butch was not impressed.
However, on hearing that the owners of LaSource the Taylor family were in financial straits with their bankers, Stewart was available and came running to make an offer.
Mc Intyre recounted: “In late October 2012 I found out that LaSource was in a lot of trouble, I got on the phone, I called his office in Jamaica, I said, “Butch, the hotel you always wanted is up for grabs you need to get into Grenada quickly.
“…He went with it and said, “Michael I can’t make money on a hundred rooms, this golf course you have there gotta go,” he said.
Another close friend of the Jamaican hotel tycoon is Sir Royston Hopkin, the owner of Spice Island Beach Resort on Grand Anse beach.
According to Sir Royston, Grenada has just gained a fortune due to the presence of Butch and Sandals on the island.
Recognizing the wealth of travel agents that showed up for the official opening, he said local hoteliers could not be angry that Sandals has landed on Grenadian shores.
“I want to take this opportunity to say Grenada is a winner – for the last few days all of these people although they have been invited by you (Butch) have been all over Grenada – they have been visiting hotels, seeing the island, taking pictures of the island”, he said.
The outspoken Sir Royston expounded on the fact that it is now left up to local hoteliers to move into “advantage mode” and capitalise on the business that was brought to them due to Sandals.
“What you have done to us is that you’ve set the benchmark and it’s now up to us, the hotel industry, the hoteliers to get our acts together to harness what is sitting over here because the folks that are sitting here are the folks that have the goodwill …. (and) …we have to make use of their presence in this island to galvanise and use this as a stepping stone to go forward,” said Sir Royston.
A proud Butch Stewart re-itterated something he said at a ceremony held four months ago to recognize the contributions of all who helped to make the Sandals/La Source a reality.
The Sandals boss said that the construction of Sandals LaSource is nothing short of a miracle.
“What took place here, the coordination, the co-operation, the professionalism of the contractors, the workers, the people of Grenada…an absolute miracle took place in this building, in this hotel, coming together in 10 and half months; it’s impossible”, Butch recalled.
The six star property, Sandals LaSource is now the place of employment for hundreds of Grenadians and provides an avenue for local farmers to sell their produce on a regular basis.