Ste­wart the Younger to team San­dals: Why wait for the fu­ture?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Mae Wayne

The e-mail was vague, but for a change straight to the point: “Dear Me­dia, please ac­cept this invitation to pro­vide cov­er­age for the event. Un­veil­ing: the closer you look, the bet­ter we look.”

Un­like so many I re­ceive, this one came with its se­duc­tive prom­ise: “The chair­man Butch Ste­wart of San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional will be in attendance. Please RSVP in or­der that cater­ing and seat­ing ar­range­ments can be made.” Some­thing for ev­ery­one: an op­por­tu­nity to rub shoul­ders with the ho­tel mag­nate per­chance to dis­cover how he works his magic and for those who live to eat, a San­dals spread!

Quite atyp­i­cally, I called to con­firm the STAR’s attendance. I as­sured the PR man­ager I would per­son­ally cover the evening’s ac­tiv­ity but, re­gret­fully, would have to pass on the fa­mous San­dals cui­sine. Pre­vi­ous en­gage­ment and all that.

For the cu­ri­ous: I don’t nor­mally cover events for the STAR. But not only was the event be­ing staged at a time when news­pa­per re­porters are putting the fin­ish­ing touches to their week­end edi­tions, our pa­per on the oc­ca­sion was short-staffed: some on va­ca­tion, at least one knocked out of ac­tion by a fe­ro­cious ‘flu at­tack: Nasha had been so look­ing for­ward to the event, for sev­eral rea­sons.

Wheezily she pleaded with me to dep­u­tize for her. For sev­eral years I had cov­ered events for her boss, when we both worked at Wei­der Pub­li­ca­tions, in Los An­ge­les. Ac­tu­ally I didn’t mind the as­sign­ment, not with its ad­ver­tised in­duce­ments that in­cluded the chance to meet Butch Ste­wart’s golden child Adam, about whom so many im­por­tant tourist-in­dus­try peo­ple had for sev­eral weeks been wax­ing almost poetic. So yes, I looked for­ward to be­ing a jour­nal­ist again, if only for a few hours.

I ar­rived at San­dals Grande shortly after six with my close friend Berthia Parle and a STAR pho­tog­ra­pher. While Berthia headed straight for her re­served seat, I lin­gered at the en­trance to the ho­tel’s ball­room, named after Bill Clin­ton’s visit sev­eral years ago. From there I could see that nearly ev­ery seat was oc­cu­pied. What would prove a metic­u­lously staged event had started bang on time. Ob­vi­ously San­dals does not op­er­ate on Looshan time!

On spe­cially set up ta­bles at the en­trance was ar­rest­ing San­dals lit­er­a­ture, all ex­pen­sively pro­duced on the high­est-qual­ity pa­per—in­valu­able tools in the hands of the ho­tel chain’s su­per sales staff, by all ac­counts all over­seen by chair­man Butch Ste­wart him­self. How could I just walk past? I’m a printer and pub­lisher.

Ev­ery­where I looked my eyes were greeted by wall-to-wall ban­ners, glossy re­minders of the world-fa­mous ho­tel chain’s count­less print cam­paigns. I don’t mind ad­mit­ting the pub­lisher in my soul could not re­sist fin­ger­ing the ma­te­rial on the ta­bles. Awe­some!

As I say, the venue for the night’s main event was the Wil­liam Jefferson Clin­ton Ball­room where a mon­ster stage had been set up. Drinks and din­ner were al­ready be­ing served the au­di­ence when I ar­rived. A sit­down af­fair. Not quite what I had bar­gained for. It would be no easy mat­ter mak­ing an in­con­spic­u­ous exit—es­pe­cially if I fol­lowed Berthia who had set­tled down in her re­served place at the head ta­ble while I scoped the au­di­ence from the en­trance, as jour­nal­ists tend to do.

I scanned the other hot­shots at the head ta­ble: Philip J. Pierre sit­ting in for the off-is­land prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony; tourism di­rec­tor Louis Lewis—and the night’s su­per­star Adam Ste­wart. Should I take my own re­served seat near Berthia? It would be good-bye sneak exit if I did.

I fi­nally de­cided to join my friend, my seat be­tween Jeremy Jones and Adam Ste­wart! There I stayed for the next five hours. Yes, no­to­ri­ously hy­per moi. What un­folded on­stage was ac­tu­ally a San­dals re­vival. (I learned later that San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional (SRI) hosts one ev­ery other year, to mark the ho­tel chain’s mind-bend­ing ac­com­plish­ments and to an­nounce fu­ture plans be­fore large and ex­cited au­di­ences com­pris­ing mainly San­dals man­agers, travel agents, sales and call-cen­ter reps, lead­ing in­dus­try fig­ures and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. Ba­si­cally a closed event, which is why I felt so hon­ored to have been in­vited.)

Suf­fice it to say the evening pro­vided me a much-ap­pre­ci­ated ed­u­ca­tion. I learned a lot about the power (yes, point­less denying the ob­vi­ous) of the San­dals brand, its ac­com­plish­ments, its goals, not only as a re­sort but also as a cor­po­rate cit­i­zen in the sev­eral is­lands where San­dals op­er­ates.

This year’s re­vival was hosted by the se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Unique Va­ca­tions, Gary Sadler. He was en­ter­tain­ing in a Ryan Seacrest kind of way, if a tad older than the Amer­i­can Idol fix­ture. You didn’t have to be told you were in the pres­ence of a master sales­man.

Philip J. Pierre spoke for the gov­ern­ment: he du­ti­fully lauded San­dals, touched on in­creased air­lift into the is­land, the pur­ported rise in tourist ar­rivals and so on. It was just what was ex­pected of him but to his credit one got the feel­ing Mr. Pierre spoke from his heart and was de­ter­mined to con­vince Adam Ste­wart of his gov­ern­ment’s good in­ten­tions. He could not re­sist crow­ing about the var­i­ous con­ces­sions San­dals ei­ther had re­ceived or would in due course. But he did it with hu­mor!

Louis Lewis di­rec­tor of the St. Lu­cia Tourist board fol­lowed him on­stage. Mr Lewis spoke to the San­dals em­ploy­ees and re­minded them that they ul­ti­mately were re­spon­si­ble for de­liv­er­ing the San­dals brand.

“You are the ones who de­liver on con­vert­ing the ex­pec­ta­tion of the vis­i­tor into a real and mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence, and by so do­ing con­vert­ing it into a sus­tain­able eco­nomic value to your place of work and coun­try.”

Then it was the turn of the SRI team. In gen­eral they were im­pres­sive, in­for­ma­tive and ob­vi­ously pas­sion­ate about their jobs and their achieve­ments. Then again, that’s what the evening was all about.

Gary Sadler, the suave VP of sales spoke pride­fully about the size of his army that gen­er­ated sales for 24 San­dals re­sorts in the Caribbean and else­where. He re­vis­ited his own hum­ble begin­nings from a play­maker at the company, re­vealed he had re­ceived, cour­tesy the ho­tel, the ed­u­ca­tion that had equipped him to climb through the ranks. It was ob­vi­ous he be­lieved ev­ery in­spir­ing word he ut­tered. Not for a minute did he lose his en­tranced au­di­ence.

Jeremy Jones was next to take the stage, to thun­der­ous ap­plause. A most af­fa­ble man is he, over­flow­ing with charm and allure. After some five years in St Lu­cia as re­gional man­ager im­prov­ing the San­dals im­age and su­per­vis­ing the ex­pan­sions of San­dals in Antigua, Gre­nada and Bar­ba­dos, Jeremy knew pre­cisely the but­tons to press and where they were lo­cated. An es­pe­cially touch­ing mo­ment was when he in­vited his re­place­ment An­dre Dhan­paul on­stage. More proof of the much

talked about San­dals team spirit!

Mr. Jones’s pur­pose on the oc­ca­sion was fur­ther to pol­ish the im­age of San­dals Cor­po­rate Univer­sity. He un­der­scored that what made San­dals dif­fer­ent was the San­dals team, the peo­ple of San­dals. In­di­vid­u­als did not come to San­dals merely look­ing for a job, he said, they came with a San­dals ca­reer in mind.

He backed up his state­ment with statis­tics and screen pro­jec­tions: 1375 per­sons had re­ceived their cer­tifi­cates from San­dals in the last three years, all en­dorsed and cer­ti­fied by the Amer­i­can hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try! San­dals had handed out a stag­ger­ing US$600,000 worth of schol­ar­ships to some 300 re­cip­i­ents!

For Jones, ev­ery San­dals re­sort is a univer­sity. Ev­ery em­ployee is handed the op­por­tu­nity to im­prove his or her ed­u­ca­tion and in con­se­quence their fu­ture. He closed by fur­ther em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, and en­cour­ag­ing all in­volved to reach for the San­dals stars.

Said Jones: “San­dals ap­pre­ci­ates and re­wards hard work. San­dals is part­ner in its peo­ple’s fu­ture!” Half­way through his de­liv­ery I ac­tu­ally caught my­self think­ing ca­reer change!

Another of my fa­vorites was Mar­shaAnn Brown, wed­dings and ro­mance di­rec­tor! Raw pas­sion was what she un­leashed on her most ap­pre­cia­tive au­di­ence! Judg­ing by the ap­plause that threat­ened the ceil­ing through­out her de­liv­ery it can safely be as­sumed she is one highly re­spected and beloved San­dals star. I, too, fell in love. She was up-front about her func­tion and her team’s: sell­ing dreams!

The Caribbean ac­counted for 40% of all des­ti­na­tion wed­dings, she glee­fully re­vealed, with the big­gest por­tion of the pie in the hands of San­dals! After lis­ten­ing to her for only a few min­utes I was ready to sched­ule a dream meet­ing with Ms Brown, my dear hus­band and me: time to re­new our vows and set off on a San­dals hon­ey­moon.

The dream weaver was fol­lowed on­stage by Heidi Clarke, the di­rec­tor of the San­dals Foun­da­tion, brain­child of Adam Ste­wart CEO of San­dals. Formed in 2009, the pur­pose of the foun­da­tion is to give back to the is­lands where San­dals op­er­ates. The foun­da­tion has helped many in need, yet goes largely un­her­alded by the me­dia and con­se­quently the larger com­mu­nity. Ms Clarke re­vealed that San­dals Foun­da­tion had im­pacted some 200,000 lives! Ev­ery cent do­nated by the re­sorts’ guests goes back into the com­mu­nity.

Clarke shared some shock­ing statis­tics with her au­di­ence: the Caribbean has 22 mil­lion un­em­ployed; 12.4 mil­lion are or­phaned; 38% of women are preg­nant be­fore they hit 20!

She spoke with con­vic­tion about the foun­da­tion’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to touch ev­ery child’s soul and ended her con­tri­bu­tion with a Gill Green-pro­duced touch­ing video on the won­der­ful work of the San­dals Foun­da­tion!

Be­fore I knew it, it was close to mid­night. Way, way past my reg­u­lar bed­time. But this was no or­di­nary evening, not with the San­dals Kool Aid in almost to­tal con­trol of my emo­tions. Like a cougar-groupie at a Justin Beiber con­cert, I looked for­ward to the night’s clos­ing act. What could he pos­si­bly say that al­ready his San­dals army had not said? I was think­ing all of that with the man of the evening seated right next to me.

Through­out the evening I had sur­rep­ti­tiously been ob­serv­ing him: he drank wa­ter, sipped herbal tea. He or­dered noth­ing stronger as he awaited his turn at the mi­cro­phone. Woman and body­builder that I am, I checked him out while try­ing hard to re­mem­ber I am also a lady. A taken one at that. It was clear to me that he worked out: he was lean and fit and of av­er­age height. No politi­cian’s pot-belly there.

He spoke with a heavy Jamaican ac­cent that had not been the least bit af­fected by a US ed­u­ca­tion. I asked for a copy of his speech, hop­ing he’d com­ply and spar­ing me the need to stay up much longer. Tough cook­ies. He came to speak from the heart, not from a cal­cu­lat­edly pre­pared script.

I liked this son of Butch Ste­wart who had ev­i­dently in­her­ited a ton-load of charisma from his fa­mous Papa.

Adam Ste­wart, CEO of San­dals op­er­a­tion since 2006 took the stage around 11.30. Mi­cro­phone in his hand, he stepped away from the podium and started work­ing the huge stage, rem­i­nis­cent of Steve Jobs. Within seconds he had taken his au­di­ence to another world—built around San­dals. He was gra­cious. He thanked “Aun­tie Berthia, now Se­na­tor Berthia.” He thanked Lady Jan­ice seated near me, thanked her and her late hus­band Sir John—for “em­brac­ing my fam­ily and wel­com­ing them to St Lu­cia”. Then he show­ered his team with grat­i­tude.

“For me tonight was about two words; two words that peo­ple say all the time but maybe they don’t think about it all the time; two words, and the two words are: thank you. Thank you to all of you that are here. The sum of each of your hearts is what is do­ing what we’re do­ing as an or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

His words came across as gen­uine, sin­cere, touch­ing. You just knew he be­lieved his ev­ery word. At a time when nearly all we hear in Saint Lu­cia is po­lit­i­cal hot air, in­sults, empty prom­ises . . . what a change to hear this in­stantly in­spir­ing young Jamaican. His ev­ery ut­ter­ance sug­gested pas­sion, love, grat­i­tude, un­shake­able self-con­fi­dence and, yes, hu­mil­ity. He made no se­cret of his love for his par­ents; his love for San­dals—not to say his of­ten re­peated ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the team­work that had made the ho­tel chain the mar­vel it is to­day.

The 30-some­thing Ste­wart’s love for the Caribbean couldn’t be more ob­vi­ous. So is his adu­la­tion of his fa­ther who, from un­be­liev­ably hum­ble begin­nings, had not only dreamed his im­pos­si­ble dream but made it come true (to bor­row from Ringo Starr’s big hit), “with a lit­tle help from his friends.”

Ste­wart the younger also has his own dream: to take San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional where no ho­tel chain has been be­fore. He didn’t ac­tu­ally say that, folks, but I cer­tainly got the feel­ing that Adam has in mind a San­dals Gar­den of Eden. And you know what? I sus­pect that, if asked, ev­ery­one in his au­di­ence would’ve read­ily agreed that Adam has all the qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to take San­dals to the moon!

Adam Ste­wart CEO of San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional and Pres­i­dent of the San­dals Foun­da­tion.

Jeremy Jones Di­rec­tor of Cor­po­rate ser­vices with the new SRI Re­gional

Man­ager, East­ern Caribbean Mr An­dre Dhan­paul.

VP of Sales Gary Sadler and the night’s

Master of Cer­e­monies.

Mar­sha-Ann Brown Di­rec­tor of Wed­dings & Ro­mance.

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