BY DESMOND ALLEN
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — Grenada’s leading hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin received lusty applause from a roomful of the island’s top businessmen when he announced here last week that he would be paying his employees four weeks bonus this Christmas.
The applause grew to a crescendo when Sir Royston further announced that he would be able to pay the hefty bonus because his 60-room luxury Spice Island Beach Resort had increased revenues by 20 per cent year-on-year, thanks to the entry of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) into the eastern Caribbean island only a year ago.
“Grenada is up 17 percent in visitor arrivals now that Sandals is in town. We did not have Sandals last year. Now we have the airlift that we did not have before. Every hotel is doing better business and a lot of employment is being generated,” said Sir Royston, who was earlier this year named Grenada’s Most Outstanding Hotelier after 49 years of service to his country and shared the spotlight with the likes of Kirani James, the outstanding 400-metre runner.
The Grenadian hotelier, in the presence of Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell and Deputy Prime Minister Elvin Nimrod, was not sparing in his commendation of Jamaica’s Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart for establishing his Sandals LaSource Grenada resort which immediately impacted the island’s economy.
“My own business is up 20 per cent and I will be paying my employees a 20 per cent bonus this Christmas,” Sir Royston added, describing Sandals as “a win-win situation” for Grenada and praising Stewart for getting the hotel up in one year, “even though that cost him 40 per cent more to achieve that”.
Sir Royston was speaking at the launch of a new call centre by Stewart at Sandals LaSource, the third by SRI – after Jamaica and St Lucia – when it becomes operational in April 2015.
Last year he had predicted that the presence of Sandals and Stewart would transform the hospitality industry and the economy of the spice island.
“It is the most recognised and biggest individual hotel company owned by an individual, so nobody has more recognition worldwide as a brand than Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart – he is the don, he is the leader in the Caribbean… It is well known what Sandals has been doing for Grenada in terms of advertising. There has been no time (before) in the history of Grenada when you have had over 300 travel agents here at one time.
“Grenada is the winner, and you know why? Butch Stewart is interested in filling his hotel and it is full. So where are the other people going when he is full? They are going to go to other people who run proper businesses and where hospitality is the word, so people who deliver value will benefit from a Sandals being there,” Sir Royston was quoted as saying.
Then Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Alexandra Otway-Noel also disclosed at the same time that because of Sandals the island had seen, in the first quarter of 2014 “a 6.1 per cent growth in the Canadian market, and a 6.4 per cent growth in our major European markets and we are looking for similar growth out of the United States market”.
Sir Royston’s I-told-you-so speech came just ahead of the official winter tourism season when thousands of visitors, escaping the icy chill of the northern climes, come to cavort in the warm blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and laze on its sun-kissed beaches.
Stewart accepted Sir Royston’s accolades and noted that it was remarkable when a competitor praises his rivals:
“The genes here are of the best kind, when competitors are commending the competition. That is the way forward and Grenada has a great future.”