The impact that Sandals Resorts International has had on the development of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean has been described as “nothing short of phenomenal”.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, made the observation during a tour of the new 220-room AC Hotel in Kingston last week conducted by Sandals/ATL Group’s Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart.
“Sandals’ contributions to the economic development of the Caribbean, and more specifically Jamaica, are significant. They are the largest single employer of tourism workers in Jamaica and arguably in the Caribbean. Tourism is big. When you look at the level of inflows that come into the region as a result of tourism – last year some US$30 billion came into the region, of which Jamaica got US$3.3 billion,” said Bartlett.
“If we do some simple math and we look at the fact that Sandals has significant room share and employs the largest number of people, we can see clearly the level of impact and contributions the company has made,” he added.
Sandals has 15,000 team members region-wide and is the Caribbean’s only ‘Worldwide Superbrand’, as well as the world’s number one All-Inclusive brand.
The company — a member of the ATL Group which includes this newspaper — is also the largest earner of foreign exchange in almost all islands it operates and is Jamaica’s largest private sector employer.
“Sandals has helped to put the Caribbean on the map. Therefore, I think that it is our responsibility as a region, recognising what these indigenous brands and particularly strong brands like Sandals have done to build the economies, that we should stand behind them and enable a greater appreciation of their continued value and also the sustainability that is inherent in the future development of the region that we require,” said Bartlett.
He noted that marketing efforts of the brand to promote the region have had over 10 billion media impressions and public relations impressions a year, with advertisements airing every three minutes somewhere in the USA and Canada.
The AC Hotel is an initiative of the Gordon “Butch” Stewart family enterprise and represents the family’s first major tourism venture outside of its Sandals/Beaches resorts trademark.
Impressed by the quality of the hotel, as well as Sandals’ involvement in the communities where it operates, Bartlett, while speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council North America Leaders Forum in New York this week, hailed the resort group as a prime example of indigenous companies in the tourism sector that are taking their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to new heights.
Speaking on the topic ‘From Doing CSR to Being CSR’, Bartlett pointed out that companies like Sandals are ensuring that the positive impact of tourism is reaching all corners of our communities.
He noted that in an effort to modify the perception that the tourism sector is too focused on the narrowed economic interest of a few and lacks a social conscience, stakeholders such as Sandals Resorts have been leaders and have been working with communities that surround their hotels for decades.
“To solidify and deepen that impact, Sandals launched its foundation some 10 years ago to expand that impact, and today the value of their CSR programmes across the Caribbean stands over US$58 million, impacting over 850,000 people’s lives,” noted the tourism minister.
He said that the Jamaican-owned hotel chain has not just been doing corporate social responsibility but is being socially responsible. “Sandals shares the story of the Caribbean, our culture, heritage, struggles, and resilience of our people with every traveller to this region, encouraging them to donate cash and in kind, providing them with strategic volunteer opportunities while on vacation through its Pack-for-a-Purpose and Reading Road Trips programmes,” stated the minister.
He sought to highlight a number of sustainable projects with direct linkages to the industry on which Sandals Resorts is focused. Among them, the Artisan Project, a partnership with the Development Bank of Jamaica through the World Bank Fund to upgrade the market-readiness of local artisan suppliers, building their capacity not just for local markets, but for international markets as well.
Another critical area for Sandals Resorts, he noted, is the environment. “Sandals and the Sandals Foundation have continued to prioritise the environment with all their hotels being Earth Check Certified, engaging both guests and team members in best practices to ensure everyone works together to protect the Caribbean’s natural resources,” noted Bartlett.
In citing Sandals Resorts as a CSR case study, he had high praises for the foundation and its executive team, which has projected that it will spend US$1.5 million annually on education, environmental sustainability and community-driven programmes across all islands in the Caribbean in which the brand operates.