Great Ex­pec­ta­tions for San­dals Num­ber Four!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - TOURISM - By Clau­dia Elei­box

For Mark Hard­ing, se­nior project man­ager for the San­dals chain, Satur­day’s press con­fer­ence of­fered an op­por­tu­nity for a joy­ous ride down mem­ory lane. Also in at­ten­dance were Ja­maica’s prime min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness, his lo­cal coun­ter­part Allen Chas­tanet with his min­is­ter for tourism Do­minic Fedee, Jimmy Bris­tol, and the man be­hind all things San­dals, Mr. Gordon “Butch” Ste­wart.

Mr. Ste­wart is no stranger to Saint Lu­cia, hav­ing es­tab­lished his first ho­tel on the is­land at La Toc in the time of John Comp­ton. The two re­mained par­tic­u­larly close friends un­til the prime min­is­ter’s pass­ing in 2007. Today the is­land boasts the orig­i­nal San­dals re­sort plus Hal­cyon at Choc and San­dals Grande at Pi­geon Pointe. On Satur­day, Ste­wart and his en­tourage were here to an­nounce plans for yet an­other re­sort, to be named San­dals LaSource. Re­mark­ably both this is­land’s prime min­is­ter and its tourism min­is­ter were, at one time, part of the San­dals fam­ily: Chas­tanet was associated with Air Ja­maica, while Fedee served to keep the lo­cal San­dals im­age spot-free.

By the prime min­is­ter’s mea­sure San­dals put Saint Lu­cia on the map: “It was not un­til its ar­rival here that we could start a con­ver­sa­tion by men­tion­ing San­dals Saint Lu­cia, and that im­pressed a lot of peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the brand. The best part is the im­pact that San­dals has had on the lives of our peo­ple. The new ad­di­tions will fur­ther en­hance our im­age and also im­pact pos­i­tively on more Saint Lu­cians.”

In his turn Hol­ness un­der­scored his per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with the ho­tel mogul. He re­ferred to Ste­wart as “a very good friend”.

Hard­ing ex­pressed his grat­i­tude to all who had burned the mid­night oil in prepa­ra­tion for last weekend’s launch, and those who were al­ready pre­par­ing to join the fam­ily when San­dals LaSource opens for busi­ness - ad­ja­cent to San­dals Grande - hope­fully in De­cem­ber 2019.

LaSource is ex­pected to have 330 keys and of­fer ten restau­rants with three new din­ing con­cepts. Guests at one San­dals fa­cil­ity will be free to en­joy the fea­tures at the other prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing com­pli­men­tary ac­cess to the re­cently ac­quired Saint Lu­cia Golf and Coun­try Club, an in­fin­ity-edge rooftop pool and bowl­ing al­ley.

Min­is­ter Do­minic Fedee re­called that dur­ing the plan­ning of the first San­dals ho­tel in Saint Lu­cia, the is­land was still wrestling with whether to tran­si­tion fully into tourism or con­tinue chas­ing a fu­ture planted in ba­nanas. At that time Saint Lu­cian farm­ers were sup­pos­edly pro­duc­ing 100,000 tons of ba­nanas a year. “Very quickly what San­dals did was to make a very valu­able point to us: that as much as the banana in­dus­try had con­trib­uted to the econ­omy, there were storm clouds ahead and tourism was the fu­ture.”

Re­fer­ring to his 16-year stint with San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional, Fedee re­called: “San­dals just kept rein­vent­ing it­self. Ev­ery week there was some­thing dif­fer­ent. The com­pany just kept grow­ing and now we are see­ing a new ad­di­tion to its brand, the LaSource prod­uct that is go­ing to take Saint Lu­cia and the Caribbean to an­other level. I think that it’s go­ing to do won­ders for our des­ti­na­tion. So, Mr. Ste­wart I would like to thank you, on be­half of the tourist board. We will have some­thing else to mar­ket, some­thing else to tell and ex­cite the travel com­mu­nity, as we have been do­ing with San­dals’ Over Wa­ter suites.”

“Once you start at San­dals,” the main man as­sured the gath­er­ing,

“there's no turn­ing back. You go on and on, there's no end road.”

Ste­wart thanked the gov­ern­ment and par­tic­u­larly Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet for their “end­less sup­port” and sig­naled his faith in the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia. He was “proud to have given Saint Lu­cia the best rea­sons to tran­si­tion from ba­nanas to tourism. San­dals Re­sorts has driven the econ­omy of Saint Lu­cia more than any other or­ga­ni­za­tion”.

Ref­er­enc­ing new investments, Ste­wart said he was ex­cep­tion­ally pleased with the suc­cess so far of the lat­est San­dals project. “We have Over Wa­ter suites, some built and some we're still build­ing. The Over Wa­ter suites have brought more at­ten­tion to Ja­maica and Saint Lu­cia be­cause of the fact that Fiji and the Far East is­lands have them. For the Caribbean also to have them has cre­ated more stir that you can be­lieve.”

Hol­ness added that Ja­maica ben­e­fit­ted greatly from its as­so­ci­a­tion with San­dals. “As prime min­is­ters, Allen will agree that we want to see more ho­tels open­ing up in our coun­tries. If you were to look at the economies of our re­spec­tive ter­ri­to­ries, what San­dals con­trib­utes is sig­nif­i­cant. I am here to en­dorse the great work of “Butch” Ste­wart. San­dals is truly a Caribbean multi­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion and it has done great work for tourism . . . What we should be do­ing now is jointly mar­ket­ing the Caribbean as a re­gion.”

Some­thing tells this reporter the idea was any­thing but a throw-away line!

San­dals staff and me­dia per­son­nel at San­dals Grande’s Bom­bay Club dur­ing the me­dia launch of San­dals LaSource.

Left to right: Ja­maican Prime Min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness, Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet and Mr Gordon “Butch” Ste­wart ex­chang­ing pleas­antries af­ter ad­dress­ing lo­cal me­dia per­son­nel last Satur­day.

Se­nior Project Man­ager Mark Hard­ing an­nounc­ing his ex­pec­ta­tions of the project.

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