I am very pleased to be here for this 4th Annual Sandals Resorts Industry Appreciation event. I am especially delighted that tonight we honour the best and brightest in the Tourism Industry.
In the words of late US President John F Kennedy: “We must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Let me start by acknowledging the diligence and creativity of tonight’s awardees who have not only uttered words, but who live by them.
The standards set by Sandals for its management and staff are extremely high. Therefore, we know that the awardees are of the highest caliber and they deserve our deepest admiration and our loudest applause. Ladies and Gentlemen, particularly those who are visiting our shores, I welcome you to this event and to Antigua and Barbuda.
I especially welcome the more than 100 principals of the top global tour operators as well as travel partners and friends of Sandals Resorts. It is also good to see Butch Stewart and Adam Stewart.
We are pleased to see you in this, your second Caribbean home. You have honoured us by choosing Antigua Sandals Grande Resort and Spa as the host for this event. We view that choice as a tribute to our country and to your own high regard for this resort as a dazzling jewel in your shining crown.
Antigua and Barbuda are incredibly proud to be the home of one of a select chosen few of the Sandals Resorts brand. Sandals Resorts has time and again throughout the years, since it was founded in 1981, been the leader in the important tourism product of the “all-inclusives”.
Let me congratulate you on your wisdom and good taste! Sandals Resorts are the leader – not the follower in the industry. As Butch has said before, “Imitation is not innovation. Exceeding expectations remains the philosophy that drives anything we can do.” Sandals Resorts are at the highest echelon in providing service. Whether it is providing the best beaches in the Caribbean – which we know something about here in Antigua and Barbuda as we have 365 of them – or providing more quality amenities and services than any competition across the world.
They are continually innovating and improving to provide the best experience possible to their guests. And, of course, above anything else is the Sandals hospitality for which not only is Sandals Resorts renowned for, but has been recognized and awarded time and again throughout the years.
None of this would be possible without the vision and leadership of Butch Stewart, often called the ‘King of All-Inclusive Resorts,’ the ‘Cupid of the Caribbean,’ and the ‘Master of Marketing.’ I know tonight is not about Butch, but it would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to acknowledge his vision and leadership, without which Antigua and Barbuda would not have one of the leading properties in the world as a draw to attract thousands of tourists annually.
Not unusual, but still incredibly notable, Butch was born in modest beginnings and began working at the young age of 17 as a salesman, where, through hard work he quickly achieved success that allowed him to leave and founded his first business, Appliance Traders, Ltd in 1968. Through his vision, and belief in this vision, he bought his first hotel in Montego Bay Jamaica, which he renovated and re-opened as the allinclusive Sandals Resort Beach Club.
As we all know, the hotel business is not for the faint of heart, and as providing the best service for all of his guests was part of Butch’s business model from the beginning. In spite of the initial hiccups, he stuck with the plan and through faith and perseverance, was able to build a profitable model for Sandals Resorts.
By 1984 he was appointed president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, for his contribution to the industry and has never looked back. Ladies and Gentlemen in 1991, a marriage made in heaven so to speak was started when Antigua and Barbuda was blessed in that we were the first Sandals resort to open outside of Jamaica.
So this evening is particularly special for us as we as a nation are celebrating 25 years of a successful tourism nuptial with the Sandals Antigua Grande Resort this evening as well.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We in Antigua and Barbuda are very proud that this year marks the 25th year of Sandals’ operations in our country. It is a silver anniversary that is worthy of commemoration, for it has been mutually beneficial. Antigua has benefitted from Sandals, and in return Sandals has gained from Antigua.
We have had a ‘win-win’ relationship. It is that winning relationship that we wish to continue. That is why, as we are in the final stages of negotiating a new ‘Beaches’ resort, we look forward to reaching an equitable agreement that is fair to all stakeholders.
The Gaston-Browne government is determined to make this country the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean. As we succeed in that quest, so too will the business sector in our community succeed.
The rising tide that we are creating will lift all boats – Sandals and the new Beaches included. With a fair and equitable arrangement for a ‘Beaches’ resort in Antigua, tangible and sustainable benefits will accrue to the developers, the investors, and the country as a whole. There could be no better prescription for another prosperous Butch Stewart property in a dynamic and flourishing Caribbean economy.
We look forward to announcing very shortly to the people of Antigua and Barbuda and the travel and tourism industry worldwide, that Antigua and Butch Stewart have celebrated their 25th anniversary with a gift of another world-beating, premier ‘Beaches’ resort. My friends, I believe it is already well known that the Antigua and Barbuda economy is one of the few in the Caribbean that is growing at an appreciable rate.
We recognise that tourism is one of the main drivers of that growth. We know, too, that tourism has the potential to be the continued locomotive of our growth. That is why my government is investing heavily in it. We want to give the travel and tourism industry, the infrastructure that it needs to build a superior product for the world’s market.
As you know, we have invested in a new airport terminal building with all the latest and most modern facilities. It offers the latest in travel technology from arrival to departure, from WiFi to one of the fastest baggage delivery times in the Caribbean. Through this investment have attracted more flights from the US, Canada and Europe.
The success to which these flights have contributed is remarkable. Thus far this year, Antigua and Barbuda is experiencing double-digit year-over-year growth each month. This has benefitted the entire tourism industry, including Sandals, bringing a healthier financial performance to all.
We have every reason to be pleased and to be encouraged. But, we do not regard what we have achieved as anything more than the beginning of a long journey. We will not rest on our laurels.
We will continue to row with vigour the boat of our economy to the shores of benefits for all. In all this, I don’t want any of you to be spectators, cheering our diligence and success. I call on you to join us; to become part of our success story; to embrace the win-win relationship that we are happy to offer.
Now I would like make a few remarks about Sandals and its stellar example of good Corporate Responsibility. Sandals launched the Sandals Corporate University in 2012. The SCU represents Sandals Resorts’ commitment to the professional development of its employees by providing them the opportunity to further advance their careers and knowledge.
Equally, the Sandals Foundation is improving the lives and residents in all eight islands of the Caribbean where the Resorts are located. These investments pay dividends in the loyalty of workers; in their hard work and in their readiness to go the extra mile. No wonder, Sandals is regularly recognized as the Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand, and wins awards at the elite travel award ceremonies around the world.
The Sandals Resorts brand is without a doubt, not just a leading Caribbean hotel brand, but a leading hotel brand worldwide – leading the standard for providing guests the best service possible.
That is why it is especially important that tonight we join Sandals in recognizing those that have been a part of this success. They are sure to be part of many more future decades of success for Sandals Resort.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in our partnership with Sandals and all the stakeholders in the industry, hospitality remains our top priority; it is intrinsic to our culture. To all the visiting tourism officials and tour operators, tourism partners, and to the management and staff of Sandals Resorts, we trust that you will shine brighter, and brighter.
Also, we urge you to return to Antigua and Barbuda, hopefully, time and again. We promise you, that with our partnership with Sandals and all the stakeholders in the industry, hospitality will remain our top priority, intrinsic to our culture, while bringing to you the supreme atmosphere in which commendation and appreciation are always part of your experience.
Again I express our profound admiration and respect to all the awardees at this event. The success that you celebrate tonight is a matter of great pride to the people of this grateful country. May God continue to bless your efforts and bless our beloved nation of Antigua and Barbuda.