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THE HON. GORDON “BUTCH” STEWART O.J. 1941-2021: LEGENDARY JAMAICAN ENTREPRENEUR REDEFINED ‘ALL-INCLUSIVE’ AND CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD WENT ON VACATION

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Hon. Gordon Butch Stewart, dubbed 'VACATION KING'

~Master Marketer Made Sandals a Household Name, Brought Opportunity to the Caribbean~

January 5, 2021 – PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS – Legendary Jamaican entrepreneur Gordon “Butch” Stewart, one of the hospitality industry’s most vibrant personalities and founder of Sandals Resorts International, the world’s leading all-inclusive resort company, has died at the age of 79.  An unstoppable force, who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations, Stewart single-handedly built the world’s most awarded vacation brand from one resort in Jamaica to over two dozen distinct resorts and villas throughout the Caribbean.

A son of Jamaica, Butch Stewart was born in Kingston on July 6, 1941 and grew up along the island country’s North Coast, a tropical paradise that now boasts several of his Luxury Included® Sandals and Beaches Resorts and where his love of the sea, dominoes and free enterprise were sown.  Certain from the start that he wanted to run his own company, at the tender age of 12, Stewart first stepped into the hospitality industry selling fresh-caught fish to local hotels.  His success got him ‘hooked’ and his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship never waned.

After completing his secondary education abroad, Stewart returned home to Jamaica where he demonstrated his innate talent as master salesman at the renowned Dutch-owned Curaçao Trading Company, quickly rising to the position of sales manager but itching to start his own company.  In 1968, Stewart took his chance.  With no collateral but recognizing the comfort that would make air conditioning an essential service, Stewart convinced American manufacturer Fedders Corporation to allow him to represent their brand in Jamaica.  With that, Stewart’s foundational business – Appliance Traders Limited (ATL), was born and he was on his way.

At ATL, Stewart developed a simple business philosophy he articulated many times: “Find out what people want, give it to them and in doing so – exceed their expectations.”  This would become the standard for every Stewart enterprise and practiced by every employee of the many companies Stewart would go on to found, including and perhaps most importantly, Sandals Resorts International.

Stewart Founds Sandals Resorts

In 1981, with a gift for recognizing opportunity, Stewart found one in Bay Roc: a rundown hotel on a magnificent beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Seven months and $4 million in renovations later, Sandals Montego Bay would open as the flagship of what is today the most popular award-winning, all-inclusiveresort chain in the world. 

While Stewart never laid claim to inventing the all-inclusive concept, he is recognized worldwide for his tireless effort to elevate the experience, delivering to his guests an unsurpassed level of luxury, and to share his certainty that a Caribbean company could successfully compete with any organization in the world.  He accomplished both. 

“I had heard of the concept, yet at the time, the services and rooms were very basic. Contrary to that, I envisioned we could bring forward a luxury resort to offer customers so much more. So, we perfected it. Only the most comfortable king size four poster beds, fine manicured gardens, cozy hammocks and the kind of warm, refined service the Caribbean has become known for. Just as important was to be located on the absolute best beach, because that’s what everyone dreams of.” 

Where other so-called “all-inclusives” offered meals and rooms at a set rate, Sandals Resorts’ prices covered gourmet dining options, premium brand drinks, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and watersport activities.  The competitors’ meals were buffet-style, so Stewart created on-property specialty restaurants with high culinary standards and white-glove service.  Sandals Resorts also was the first Caribbean hotel company to offer whirlpools and satellite television service, the first with swim-up pool bars and the first to guarantee that every room is fitted with a king-size bed and a hair dryer.  More recent innovations have included a signature spa concept – Red Lane® Spa, signature luxury suites designed for privacy and ultimate pampering, complimentary WiFi, and signature partnerships with iconic organizations such as Microsoft Xbox® Play Lounge, Sesame Workshop, PADI, Mondavi® Wines, Greg Norman Signature Golf courses and the London-based Guild of Professional English Butlers. And in 2017, Stewart introduced the Caribbean’s first over-the-water accommodations, which were quickly expanded to include Over-the-Water bars and Over-the-Water wedding chapels.

By steadfastly adhering to the “we can do it better” principle of pleasing his guests, Stewart fostered a company free to imagine and free to consistently raise the bar.  This ethos earned him the title of “King of All-Inclusives,” changing the face of the all-inclusive format and establishing Sandals Resorts as the most successful brand in the category – boasting year-round occupancy levels of more than 85 percent, an unequaled returning guest factor of 40 percent and demand that has led to unprecedented expansion including the creation of additional concepts such as Beaches Resorts, now the industry standard for excellence in family beach vacations. 

Butch Stewart loved Sandals.  At the time of his passing, he was hard at work on plans for the recently announced expansions to the Dutch island of Curaçao and St. Vincent.  

Stewart As Statesman

Stewart’s leadership helped resurrect Jamaica’s travel industry and earned him the respect of his peers and the admiration of his countrymen.  He was elected President of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica in 1989 and was inducted into its “Hall of Fame” in 1995. He served as a Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board for a decade and as President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association in the mid-80s, ably balancing government and private sector priorities, reconciling the concerns of large and small Jamaican hotels, and raising public understanding of the tourism industry. In 1994, Stewart led a group of investors to take leadership of Air Jamaica, the Caribbean’s largest regionally based carrier.  It was a daunting task – planes were dirty, service was indifferent and on-time schedules were rarely met, causing market share to plummet along with revenues.               

When Stewart stepped in, he insisted on a passenger-friendly approach: on-time service, reduced waiting lines, increased training for all personnel, and signature free champagne on flights to accompany an emphasis on better food.  He also opened new routes in the Caribbean, brought on new Airbus jets and established a Montego Bay hub for flights coming from and returning to the United States. Just as with ATL and Sandals Resorts, Stewart’s formula proved successful and in late 2004, Stewart gave the airline back to the government with an increase in revenue of over US$250 million.

It was not the first time Stewart would come to the aid of his country.  In 1992, he galvanized the admiration of Jamaicans  with the “Butch Stewart Initiative,” pumping US$1 million a week into the official foreign exchange market at below prevailing rates to help halt the slide of the Jamaican dollar.  Dr Henry Lowe, at the time president and CEO of Blue Cross, wrote to Stewart saying: “I write to offer sincere congratulations to you for the tremendous initiative which has done so much, not only for the strengthening of our currency, but more so, for the new feeling of hope and positive outlook which is now being experienced by all of us as Jamaicans.”

Less well-known may be the extent of Stewart’s considerable philanthropy, where for more than 40 years he has helped improve and shape the lives of Caribbean people.  His work, formalized with the creation in 2009 of The Sandals Foundation, offers support ranging from the building of schools and paying of teachers to bringing healthcare to the doorsteps of those who cannot afford it. This in addition to his tireless support of a wide range of environmental initiatives. Beyond the work of the Foundation, Stewart has given millions to charitable causes such as celebrating the bravery of veterans and first responders and helping those in the wake of devastating hurricanes.

In 2012, Stewart founded the Sandals Corporate University, aimed at providing professional development for employees through reputable education and training programs. With access to more than 230 courses and external partnerships with 13 top-ranking local and international universities, every staff member can apply, broaden their knowledge, and advance their career.

Stewart’s successes in business and in life have earned him more than 50 well-deserved local, regional, and international accolades and awards including Jamaica’s highest national distinctions: The Order of Jamaica (O.J.), and Commander of the Order of Distinction (C.D.).  In 2017, Stewart was honored with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS), hosted by the Burba Hotel Network, marking his significant contribution to the hospitality industry.  “The success of Sandals has helped to power the growth of the tourism industry and economies not only in Jamaica but throughout the Caribbean,” said BHN president Jim Burba.  “The word ‘icon’ certainly applies to Butch Stewart.”

It delighted Stewart whenever he was dining anywhere in the world and an excited staff member would share with him, “Thank you.  I got my start at Sandals.”

Father & Son

Butch Stewart, The Man

With his easy pace, infectious warmth and trademark striped shirt, Stewart exuded an approachability that belied the complexity of his character.  While he was an acute businessperson, who at the time of his death was responsible for a Jamaican-based empire that includes two dozen diverse companies collectively representing Jamaica’s largest private sector group, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and its largest non-government employer, he was an extremely private man whose deepest devotion was to his family.

His greatest test came in 1989 when his beloved 24-year-old son Jonathan was killed in a car accident in Miami.  Stewart recalled the incident in a 2008 interview, “For two months after he died, I was absolutely useless, and after that I was sort of running on remote control. Things were a blur. It’s every parent’s nightmare.  After a year or so, I started to see things in vivid detail. You have to get busy, be close with your family. It did a lot in terms of me getting closer. There’s a lot more satisfaction.”

Early days of building business for Caribbean tourism

Stewart was able to return to his relentless pace, and the consensus among those who knew him best is that he did it by leading by example. “If you are going to lead, you have to participate,” Stewart was fond of saying.  He believed that if everyone in the organization recognized that the man in charge was working as hard as they were, they’d have an infinite amount of respect and motivation. “It’s about instilling a spirit of teamwork, defining a purpose and then rolling up your sleeves to get the job done better than anybody else,” Stewart said.

The company Butch Stewart built remains wholly owned by the Stewart family, who, in honor of Mr. Stewart’s long-term succession plans, has named Adam Stewart Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, extending his formidable leadership of the brands he has shepherded since he was appointed CEO in 2007.

Butch (Hon Gordon Stewart) and Branson (Sir Richard Branson) travel titans

Speaking on behalf of his family, Adam Stewart said, “our father was a singular personality; an unstoppable force who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations and whose passion for his family was matched only by the people and possibility of the Caribbean, for whom he was a fierce champion.  Nothing, except maybe a great fishing day, could come before family to my dad.  And while the world understood him to be a phenomenal businessman – which he was, his first and most important devotion was always to us.  We will miss him terribly forever.”

Adam Stewart named Chairman of Sandals Resorts International

Gordon “Butch” Stewart is survived by his wife, Cheryl, children Brian, Bobby, Adam, Jaime, Sabrina, Gordon, and Kelly; grandchildren Aston, Sloane, Camden, Penelope-Sky, Isla, Finley, Max, Ben, Zak, Sophie, Annie and Emma; and great grandchildren Jackson, Riley, Emmy and Willow.

A private funeral service will be held. Those wishing to share memories, condolences or personal stories may do so at AllThatsGood@sandals.com

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

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Worst time to be a Woman; a Haitian crises

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Magnetic Media 

 

#TurksandCaicos, June 24, 2022 – I know many of us are frustrated by the reports of illegal vessels breaching our waters, landing on our shores, costing us in repatriation expenses and overwhelming our small states and we’re not wrong to be bent out of shape by it.  However there are many facets to this maddening issue to sound alarms and from what I’m told and because of what I have noticed, the number of women increasingly taking the risk to runaway confirms the heartbreaking truth that abuses of this vulnerable group are escalating in frequency and violence.

A teenager, pregnant jumped from a balcony in Blue Hills (TCI) in desperation to escape pursuing law enforcers; it was dark, she could have died, she was hospitalized then sent back.

Turks and Caicos Police ‘stop & search’ operations are capturing many women; women who are trying to get to a job site in the many illegal jitneys moving around the town.

Sure it is all illegal, however it remains gut wrenching that these skittish ladies would have started the day on the hustle for a little cash only to be caught, with no document affirming legal status breaking the law. They will be deported and life will change, likely for the worse.

Haiti’s instability is driving the exodus of Haitian people.  The plummeting quality of life is pushing the “irregular migrants” as they are labelled to board boats, take to the ocean in pitch black conditions, driven by a desperate home.

Some make it, some do not.

The only death recorded or reported at the TCI detention center in years was this month; it was a Haitian woman. We don’t know what went wrong. But a journey toward a better life ended with the loss of hers.

I come from a set of nations – The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands – which have ensured I have a place.  Whether that’s school or college or a job or as an entrepreneur, room was made for me and laws are in place to enable and empower me. Not only do I have bread to eat, but I get to choose the type of bread I want to eat and can share it.

I am blessed. Truly.

But for my Haitian sisters, when you see their faces and the sadness in their eyes. When the human spirit is so shattered that it creeps into the dankest of places which is utter hopelessness, we should sit up and stand up.  This should capture our attentions.

In fact we should know, that for the hundreds we do encounter, there are countless more out there, unseen and trying to survive without being fortified by a force field of love, rule of law and simple decency.  There are too many more relentlessly buffeted by exploitation and circumstances outside of their control.

I suspect, this is the absolute worst time to be a woman or girl in Haiti. Just the worst.

Whether it is the recent memorial held to remember 11 Haitian women who perished at sea in early May trying to get in, undetected to Puerto Rico or a new and emerging report on describing the sexual abuse of Haitian women working at a factory; given sickening ultimatums:  Sex for their salary; an exploitation which usually draws throngs of people to vociferous protests in more developed countries; to this news however, there is silence and little reaction that we can see.

I declare that these women are significant.  They are valued despite the trials and tribulations of their homeland.  Within this dispensation, a post Black Lives Matter world, the darker complexion of many of their skins no longer means they are disposable.

And united, it means, women wherever we are can link hearts and hands to partake in and contribute to a shared stance of solidarity.  We can do it for the voiceless anywhere we want, we are women and though muted by the many dramas and truamas unfolding in our own lives, communities and countries, we still hear these voices crying and screaming out and we will help.

Just watch and see.  Women of Haiti, help is on the way.

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Macmillan Education Caribbean hosts panel discussion with the women of STEM

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June 23, 2022 – Macmillan Education Caribbean has been holding its Summer of Science for the last two weeks, focusing on “Discovering Scientists” across the Caribbean.  Now, it announces its second exciting event in the wider campaign.

In a panel discussion hosted by Macmillan Education Caribbean, three women in the STEM industry will be invited to discuss their experiences in the field, offer advice for young women aspiring to have a career in science, and more. The panel, called Opening up science: Meet the Women in STEM will be hosted online, at 1:00pm AST on Tuesday 28th June.

The event features three fantastic panellists: Dr Claire Durant, Niva Miles, and Dr Joanne Simmons-Boyce.  Between them, they have amassed a wealth of experience at various different touchpoints of the STEM field; from authoring science textbooks and serving on examinations councils, to teaching science and practising natural products chemistry.

With Dr Claire Durant and Dr Joanne Simmons-Boyce being Barbadian scientists, and Niva Miles having authored Human and Social Biology for CSECⓇ Examinations, each of the panellists will bring a unique view on science in the Caribbean to the conversation, which will be especially useful to those watching.

The event is open to all, although young women and female educators are especially encouraged to attend. In a blog she wrote for Macmillan Education Caribbean on the importance of championing women in science, Dr Claire Durant said:

“To establish an inclusive scientist workforce, women and girls need to see themselves reflected in their teachers in the classroom as well as in the scientists who develop the technology, medicine, beauty, engineering and entertainment products that we use every day.”

Macmillan Education Caribbean is strongly encouraging schools to get involved in creative ways, by hosting ‘watch parties’ for the panel discussion inside classrooms, or by getting students and teachers to submit questions for the panellists.

In the fortnight surrounding the panel event, Macmillan Education Caribbean’s channels will be exploring Science for Life, and will be introducing the panellists in more detail, whilst also exploring the accessibility of science and spotlighting the title Human and Social Biology for CSECⓇ Examinations, which this panel was inspired by.

The Human and Social Biology for CSEC Examinations title is centred around “opening up” science, making it both accessible and engaging for learners of varying abilities. In this visually engaging series, a range of different routes to learning are explored – from animated videos to aid understanding, and project guidance for undertaking the independent School-based Assessment.

You can follow the Summer of Science across Macmillan Education Caribbean’s social media channels, visit their website for more information, or follow the hashtag #ScienceForLife to get involved with the next phase of the campaign.

Teachers and students can register for the discussion at  https://macmillanic.clickmeeting.com/opening-up-science-meet-the-women-in-stem/register.

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CARPHA Continues to Focus on Results Based Management to Achieve Results for the CARICOM Region

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, June 23, 2022 –  On June 15th and 17th, employees of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) participated in a training workshop aimed at increasing the Agency’s capacity to deliver results and to be able to assess the impact of its work.  The Strategic Planning, Results Based Management (RBM) and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Workshop forms part of a series of activities being undertaken by Le Groupe-Conseil Baastel.  Baastel was awarded the consultancy to Institutionalise Results Based Management at the Agency, in September 2021, this consultancy will also facilitate the development of CARPHA’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025.

In her opening remarks, Dr Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA stated, “While the Agency already operates within a results-oriented reality, it welcomed the opportunity for the employees to collectively, take an in-depth view of the strategic planning process.”  She added that the exercise would help to clearly show what CARPHA has achieved and what the Agency hopes to achieve in the future.  She highlighted that the training would, “help us deepen our understanding of these processes and how we can each contribute to the importance of this process.”

Head of Vector Borne Diseases, Dr Horace Cox expressed that he is optimistic that the Agency would have even greater impact moving forward and felt that the workshop was beneficial because it “teaches how we can use the data of today to guide the design and implementation of the interventions of tomorrow”.  While Dr Rian Extavour, Programme Manager of the Caribbean Regulatory System shared, “Many aspects of the session made me more aware of how we can be even more creative to find other opportunities to strengthen what we do.”

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, with the support of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), developed and implemented the CARICOM Results-Based Management (RBM) System based on the Community Strategic Plan 2015-2019.  The CARICOM RBM System was developed to serve as a mechanism to engender a more results-oriented culture within the Region.  It was executed to improve implementation rates, increase accountability, transparency and improve governance of the Community.  All regional institutions, including The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), were then mandated by CARICOM Heads of Government to adopt the RBM approach and institutionalise RBM in their operations. With activities such as these workshops, CARPHA is well on its way to fulfilling this mandate. Dr. Mark Sami, Director of Corporate Services elaborated that “RBM will ensure that organisational efficiency is enhanced because all departments whether corporate or technical will direct their energies towards the achievement of set objectives, thus ensuring unity in purpose.”

Funding for this activity is being provided by the European Union (EU) through the 11th European Development Fund (11th EDF) Programme of Support for Health Security Strengthening for Prevention and Control of Outbreaks of Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean, for which CARPHA is the Executing Agency.  The Secretariat of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) has supported CARPHA’s access to these resources. This project, which is valued at €8,000,000.00 and has a duration of four (4) years, will enhance the institutional capacity of CARPHA to effectively support the Caribbean in preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.

For additional information on the EU Project:

https://carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/11th-EDF-Regional-Health-Security

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