The BHTA’s newly-installed senior vice-president, Jackson Weech, whose background is the all-inclusive model that Sandals became known for, said: “Mr Stewart always said: ‘Find out what people want, give it to them and, in doing so, exceed their expectations’. A sound and simple philosophy that would become a standard mantra in industry. One we strove to achieve.”
Mr Stewart and Sandals joined Sol Kerzner in playing a key role in the Bahamian tourism industry’s 1990s revitalisation. Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort and Spa opened in 1996 after Mr Stewart acquired the property several years earlier from the Hotel Corporation, as the then-Ingraham administration sought to get the Government out of the resort business.
He and Sandals later rescued another Bahamian resort, acquiring Exuma’s Emerald Bay property from its receivers in the early part of last decade. The Jamaican hotelier, who has established Sandals among the tourism industry’s leading all-inclusive brands, especially in the Caribbean, also has a high-end getaway at Fowl Cay in the Exumas chain.
Carlton Russell, the BHTA’s immediate past president, said: “We will forever be grateful to Butch Stewart for his unwavering support, his faith in our country, in organisations such as the BHTA. He has touched the lives of countless people, for the better. His legacy will live on through his family and the incredible team of people who work for and with the Stewarts in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean.”
Mr Stewart was awarded the prestigious ‘Hotelier of the Year’ honour by the BHTA at the 16th Cacique Awards ceremony, which was held at the Meliá Nassau Resort on Saturday, January 24, 2015.
Vernice Walkine, the BHTA’s vice-president for allied members, and Nassau Airport Development Company’s president and chief executive, said of Mr Stewart: “He was such a pioneer; a genius, really. He created a whole new tourism/hospitality sector in luxury all-inclusive; he perfected the all-inclusive.”
Sandals and Beaches Resorts, through its philanthropic arm, The Sandals Foundation, has also positively impacted the lives of “over 840,000 people across the Caribbean” though its’ charitable efforts.
Dr Hubert Minnis, in a statement issued yesterday, said Mr Stewart’s passing had “saddened and shocked The Bahamas and the region”. The Prime Minister added: “At a time when the Bahamas was looking for investors to acquire government-owned hotels, he was the first in line, transforming the Balmoral into the Sandals Royal Bahamian.
“He significantly and immediately added to the number of rooms and employees of the resort, and the reputation of The Bahamas. He was famously enthusiastic about the extraordinary potential of the Caribbean, and often remarked about the still untapped potential of the islands of The Bahamas. He moved a number of significant corporate functions of the brand to The Bahamas.”
Turning to the Sandals’ founder’s impact on regional tourism, the Prime Minister said: “He was a leading pioneer in tourism, whose all-inclusive resorts became an iconic global brand. He competed successfully with other international brands.
“His commitment to the region was manifest in the economic impact of his properties throughout the region, including his resorts in The Bahamas at Sandals Royal Bahamian on New Providence and at Fowl Cay and Emerald Bay in the Exumas. He was a great friend and lover of the islands of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people.”
The Ministry of Tourism, in its own tribute, said Sandals had become “an integral part” of the Bahamian tourism product. It added: “Butch Stewart’s contribution to The Bahamas over the past 20 years has been national in scope, and deeply personal to the lives of thousands of our fellow Bahamians who, through employment with the Sandals brands, have built sustainable careers, homes and families…
“History will record Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart as a game changer in the delivery of the globally-coveted Caribbean vacation product, having elevated the all-inclusive resort model to a five-star, world class experience.”
Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, added: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Butch Stewart, a key partner in our tourism enterprise, who has left an indelible mark on the Bahamas’ hospitality sector.
“Butch’s vision for hospitality will live on to be enjoyed by future guests at Nassau’s Royal Bahamian as well as Sandals Emerald Bay and Fowl Cay Resort in Exuma.”
Published: January 6, 2021