~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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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
CARICOM says they want ‘Ceasefire’ in Gaza
March 3, 2024 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and is calling out Israel for ignoring UN calls to put an end to the invasion, following the conclusion of the 46th Heads of Government Intersessional Meeting.
The February 29 statement was published online and maintained that CARICOM was “deeply distressed by the ongoing violence and deteriorating situation in Gaza, which has resulted in the tragic loss of civilian lives, including the deaths of women and children on an unprecedented scale, and widespread displacement and suffering.”
Despite its calls for a cease fire, the regional bloc reiterated its strong condemnation of the attacks by Hamas ‘as well as of the Israeli actions that violate international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’
CARICOM is describing Israel’s attacks on Gaza as ‘incessant’ and ‘catastrophic’ in impact on that region.
“CARICOM urges an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and safe and unimpeded access for the delivery of adequate and sustained humanitarian assistance. We also strongly advocate for the rule of law to prevail and for the return to their families of all hostages and persons held in administrative detention without charge.
Israel’s continued and expanding occupation of territory in the occupied West Bank poses a serious and continuing threat to a peaceful, secure and stable world.”
CARICOM is also reaffirming its commitment to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, and has summoned stronger interference and enforcement by the United Nations (UN).
“The Community, therefore, calls on the United Nations General Assembly to invoke its powers in the UN General Assembly Resolution 377A “Uniting for Peace” to hold an emergency session and to issue appropriate recommendations to UN Member States to collectively impose measures designed to motivate Israel to adhere to its obligations under the said UN Resolution and under the ICJ Order.”
Israeli Jews and Palestine are steeped in a bloody conflict which began following an October 7, 2024 attack on Jewish people by Hamas militants which reportedly resulted in hundreds being killed, it was reported that 260 bodies were recovered and 130 Israelis were taken hostage. The response by Israel has been incessant and merciless, the latest criticism coming on February 29, when Israel was accused of opening fire on Palestinians crowding a UN orchestrated, relief convoy where 112 people were killed.
Matters Related to Financing for Development in the Region
March 3, 2024
Heads of Government are of the view that funds should be streamlined to ensure that there are no conflicting mandates.
In this regard, Heads of Government supported the establishment of the Blue-Green Investment Bank, which is being established by Barbados, whose mandate is exclusively on investments aimed at achieving adaptation and safeguarding resilience in our Region and in our individual Member States.
Heads of Government are also of the view that pursuit of the CARICOM Development Fund’s (CDF) mandate should support investments aimed at stabilising Disadvantaged Countries, regions and sectors, with a view to achieving high levels of long-term economic growth in our Region and our individual Members States.
Heads of Government noted the existence of substantial amounts of funds held by households and the private sector in the financial institutions of the Region, both bank and non-bank. A fraction of these deposits could be mobilised to finance Bonds issued by the CDF after consultation with the Regional Central Banks and preserve compliance with the prudential requirements of the financial sector in the respective jurisdictions.
It was agreed that the Lead Head of Government in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet with responsibility for CARICOM Single Market and Economy, Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, will coordinate the establishment of a Working Group on Financing for Caribbean Development, to be convened and headed by Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo to address the matter of mobilising financing including from the sources identified above, to be intermediated through the Blue-Green Investment Bank and the CDF to advance the objectives of regional resilience and growth.
It was also agreed that this Working Group on Financing for Caribbean Development should conclude its work within four months of the current meeting with a view to submitting the Report by the next meeting of Heads of Government.
Secretary-General’s remarks at press conference upon arrival in Kingstown Airport, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
29 February 2024
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Let me first of all, express my deep gratitude to Prime Minister Gonsalves for having invited me to participate in this CELAC Summit and to intervene in the opening session. But this visit goes beyond the participation in a Summit. It’s a visit in which I would like to pay a few tributes and to express a deep solidarity.
The first tribute is to Latin America and the Caribbean as a continent of peace, in a world where we see a proliferation of wars and conflicts of all kinds. Today, I was shocked to know that, in another episode of the war in Gaza, 100 people that were queuing to receive humanitarian aid were killed.
I think that a situation like this would require an effective independent investigation to detect how it was possible and those responsible for it. And at the same time, there is the reported number of more than 30,000 civilians that have died in Gaza since 7 October, making it an unprecedented number of civilians killed in a conflict since I have been Secretary-General.
Now, in this context, to see Latin America and the Caribbean as a continent of peace, and to see that when a problem arises, and recently we had one with two neighbours, Guyana and Venezuela, there is a mediator that emerges and is able to bring the parties together and to avoid a conflict. And so, I want to pay tribute to Prime Minister Gonsalves for his permanent role, always very attentive to any possibility of conflict, and his engaged, active and effective mediation, as I also have seen in relation to his very strong commitment to the solution of the problems in Haiti.
And paying tribute to him, I want to pay tribute to the courage, the resilience and the solidarity of the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. When the volcano exploded, and when this island and its population faced the dramatic tragedy, I could witness the way this country was able to mobilize everything. The solidarity of the people, the courage of the people, the determination of the people – that is something that is an example for all of us, everywhere. And once again, I want to express my enormous appreciation for what was done in the immediate response and in the reconstruction that followed.
But I also want to express a deep solidarity to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Many of the economies of the continent are in deep trouble. When COVID-19 devastated the world, the truth is that developed countries, like mine, in the European Union, were able to print money in large quantities, to support their people and to support their economies.
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the overwhelming majority could not print money because, if they would have to print money, their currencies would suffer enormously. And so, they had to borrow in order to solve the problems of their people and their economies after COVID-19. And we see now so many economies in this continent drowning in debt, and we see that an unfair, ineffective, and outdated international financial architecture has proven unable to support these countries in this moment of distress. To make things worse, with the war in Ukraine and with other impacts, prices went up, interest rates went up. The impact on their economies has been terrible. But many of the economies of the region are middle-income countries, and middle-income countries have no access to concessional funding, and they have no access to debt relief that is effective.
It’s time for a reform or our international financial institutions. It’s time for a new Bretton Woods movement in which developing countries can see an international financial system able to address the enormous challenges that they face.
And the last word of solidarity is for Small Island Developing States. They are on the front lines of the fight against climate change. They are the ones that suffer more with the impacts of climate change, and they have not contributed to climate change. But even not having contributed to climate change, they are also on the front lines of adopting the measures of mitigation to reduce emissions that are, of course, very limited from the beginning, but to show their solidarity with the world. And it is absolutely essential that there is not only a much bigger ambition in relation to the reduction of emissions. And that is essentially a responsibility of the G20 countries that represent 80 per cent of the emissions. But we need much more climate justice. Which means much more finance available at reasonable cost for adaptation and mitigation for developing countries, and in particular for Small Island Developing States.
And so, this is the moment to recognize that countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that have been victims of an unfair international financial system, and that many of them in particular are victims of a runaway climate change, have the right to claim for the reforms that are necessary in order to create the conditions for their governments to be able to act providing their peoples with the response to the needs that need to be addressed. Because it is absolutely unacceptable that lack of investment in education, or in housing, or infrastructure, is the price paid for an unfair international financial system in the moment of a global multiplication of wars and conflicts that represents the threat to international peace and security.
Question: We live in a hemisphere that has a lot of different issues and also we have various types of organizations at various levels? How do you see CELAC playing a particular role including those issues in the hemisphere?
Secretary-General: I’ve always been supportive of integration. Economic integration, political integration, as the key instrument for regions to be able to allow their countries to cooperate more strongly and cooperating more strongly to be able to better defend the interests of their people. So I believe that CELAC is an extremely important tool to push for a progressive economic and political integration in the Latin American and Caribbean world.
Question: July 6, 2023 you spoke on two issues. And you mentioned that to address the problem in Haiti a budget of about $720 million was needed, but at the time of your address in Trinidad and Tobago only 23 percent of that financing was collected. How much of that financing has been collected and how much is needed to bring peace to Haiti?
Secretary-General: I think that in Haiti we need three things. First: we need effective, political progress for a political solution.
Second: we need a security system that allows to end domination of the gangs and the criminality that is destroying the country. And I hope that an international force for which I fought will be able to soon be in Haiti, but we also need much more international support from the humanitarian and economic point of view.
Indeed, the humanitarian appeal of last year was insufficiently funded. We just launched a new humanitarian appeal and I hope that this time the world will understand that the people of Haiti are suffering so much that at least in the minimum of the minimum that corresponds to the basic needs – there is an effective response of the international community.
That is my strong appeal. But that will not replace the need for a political solution and the need for establishment of security.
Question: You were talking about Haiti. I wanted to ask about the CARICOM Summit. They arrived with a date for elections on 2025. What’s your opinion about this?The second question is related to climate justice that you were talking about and this need for a reform of the financial system. Is this going to be one of the main issues during the CELAC Summit to talk about? How is it possible to work with them?
Secretary-General: First of all, in relation to Haiti, there was some progress with the constitution of the presidential council, with the checks and balances that were established and with the scheduling of the elections. The problem that we need to be absolutely sure is solved is implementation. And that things are not postponed or that things, or that nobody is dragging his or her feet.
So, we absolutely need now to move quickly in the implementation of what was decided because let’s be clear, you can put as many police forces as possible in Haiti [but] if there is no political solution, the problem will not be solved.
It is not for me to define the agenda of CELAC. But two things I can guarantee – these two issues will be raised by me very clearly in my intervention tomorrow.
And, when we talk about climate justice, we are still waiting for a meaningful availability of resources for the loss and damage fund.
We need much more than what was promised. We need a clarification of how the adaptation funding will double, and commitment that should emerge of making 50 per cent of international funding on climate for adaptation. We need to clarify once and for all how the $100 billion that developed countries have promised per year are implemented.
And we need to do the reforms in the way international financial institutions work – both the need to increase their capital level and the need to change their business model in order to be able to mobilize much more resources and to attract private capital at reasonable cost for support of developing countries in climate action.
Question: Over the years, a number of resolutions have been passed by the United Nations Security Council. How much of a hinderance towards achieving peace in a number of regions, the latest is what’s happening in Gaza, how much of a hinderance is the veto power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council?
Secretary-General: The geopolitical divides that unfortunately have been aggravating in the recent times have transformed the veto power into an effective instrument of paralysis of the action of the Security Council.
In a world where those geopolitical divides would not exist, probably things would be easier. I remember the 1990s in which there were not many vetos. But the truth is, in the present situation, with the deep divides that we that we are witnessing among the main powers, the veto power became, indeed, an instrument of paralysis of the Security Council, and an instrument that limits its capacity to address the crisis, the dramatic crises we are facing.
One example. I’ve been claiming for months that we need a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, as we need the immediate and unconditional release of hostages. Until now it was not possible to have the Security Council adopt this position. And when one sees the incident that I mentioned – about 100 people that were killed – we see how important this humanitarian ceasefire [would be.]
There are, of course, negotiations that are taking place and I wish success for those negotiations – to be possible to have the release of a number of hostages, to be possible to have an interruption in the fighting – but I am totally convinced that we need a humanitarian ceasefire and we need the unconditional and immediate release of hostages and that we should have a Security Council able to achieve these objectives.
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