Sandals Resorts International is recognized worldwide for its all-inclusive Caribbean destinations, but not everyone is familiar with how it all started.
The story begins in 1981, when Jamaican businessman Gordon “Butch” Stewart bought a rundown breachfront hotel in Montego Bay, with the aim of turning it into a luxury property despite having no hotel experience, according to the company’s website.
After seven months and a $4 million renovation, Stewart opened Sandals’ flagship location, Sandals Montego Bay. He went on to develop further resorts in Jamaica and eventually expanded throughout the Caribbean.
While Stewart did not invent the all-inclusive concept, he became famous for mastering the luxury and couples-only experience.
At a time when most competitors in the all-inclusive space were offering buffet-style dining, Stewart offered specialty restaurants on-site with high-end offerings and premium service. Sandals Resorts were also the first to introduce swim-up pool bars, which are now a common offering at resorts across the globe.
When Steward passed away last year, he had built a billion-dollar empire that remains privately owned by his family to this day, with brands that include Sandals Resorts for couples and Beaches Resorts for families.
Sandals Resorts International currently owns and operates 25 Caribbean resorts: nine resorts and three private villas in Jamaica, three resorts respectively in Saint Lucia and The Bahamas, two in Barbardos and one each in Antigua, Grenada, and Turks & Caicos. The company is also set to open a Sandals Resorts on the island of Curaçao and a Beaches Resorts in St. Vincent and The Grenadines.