The saying goes, “Love what you do and do it well—success will follow.” Take one look at Sandals and Beaches, and you might be inspired to believe it. The two brands have racked up a whopping six Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards this year: Best Resort/Hotel Chain for Spa, All-Inclusive, Honeymoon/Romance and in the Caribbean and Best All-Inclusive Resort Chain for Travel Agent Support (Sandals), as well as Best Family-Oriented Resort/Hotel Chain (Beaches). According to chairman and founder of Sandals Resorts International, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, awards like these stem from continued passion for the product.
“As we approach our 30th anniversary, our number one priority remains, as it has always been, to continue to offer travelers a top luxury product and an unforgettable experience,” he says.
The philosophy of constant upgrades that has driven Sandals and Beaches resorts has paid off big. The company has won in all six categories for five years running, and has taken home at least one RCA for the past 11. And that’s just the beginning of its success. “2010 has served as our most successful year to date across all of our brands, with each year bringing new additions to the Sandals Resorts experience,” Stewart says.
Its Martha Stewart Weddings program launched this year, brings celebrity wedding designs to every property. Red Lane Spa, the brands’ signature spa line, partnered with Dermalogica to enhance its services and product lines. Kids at Beaches Resorts got to experience more characters in 2010, with the addition of Big Bird to the Sesame Street cast. And, perhaps most notably, Sandals and Beaches have continued to raise the bar on luxury at all-inclusive resorts. Take, for example, Sandals Emerald Bay, which debuted in Great Exuma this year and features poolside butler service, villa accommodations and its own championship golf course. The company has also merged the Sandals and ultra-luxe Royal Plantation brands, a move that seems to imply that these resorts are really luxury properties that happen to operate with all-inclusive pricing, rather than traditional all-inclusives.
With properties that renovate and upgrade so frequently, effective travel agent support is a must, says Kevin Froemming, president of Unique Vacations, Inc., worldwide reps for Sandals and Beaches. “Travel agents are always gaining knowledge from first-hand experiences through the Certified Sandals Specialist [CSS] and Preferred Sandals Agency [PSA] programs, as well as our frequent “mega FAMs” to our resort properties in the Caribbean,” he explains. “Our specialist programs are designed to give agents and agencies a unique position in the marketplace as Sandals and Beaches experts, companies that we have certified to be the best representative of our brands. It’s an important way for specialists to stand out in the marketplace and to build their own business.” In addition to education and specialized service, CSS agents have the opportunity to earn free resort stays; PSA agencies can use program earnings to host “Sandals Nights” or to lease a Sandals-branded car.
Stewart promises Sandals’ and Beaches’ commitment to upgrading won’t waver in 2011, and planned developments like a $25 million renovation at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios, as well as new over-the-water suites at Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, featuring see-through glass floors inside 1,300-sq.-ft. units, support that prediction. “At a time when other companies may be cutting back on amenities, Sandals Resorts continues to improve the product, exceed expectations and offer more inclusions to please the customer,” Stewart says.