The Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association (SLHTA) joins the rest of the regional and global tourism industry in expressing condolences to the family, friends and relatives of outstanding hospitality pioneer, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who died in Miami, Florida, on Monday evening, January 4, 2021. He was 79.
Stewart was Founder and Chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), which the late tourism icon founded in 1981. SRI currently owns fifteen all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.
In Saint Lucia, Sandals owns four properties: Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort, Sandals Regency Golf Resort & Spa, and Sandals Golf & Country Club.
The Sandals story in Saint Lucia began when Stewart visited the island in 1992, later acquiring then Cunard Hotel and converting it into Sandals Regency. Years later, Sandals Halcyon and Sandals Grande were added to the Sandals portfolio.
“We played probably the largest role in Saint Lucia during the transition from banana to tourism. Sandals drove the economy of Saint Lucia more than any other organization,” Stewart said during a press conference at Sandals Grande in June 2017 to launch another Sandals hotel in Saint Lucia, dubbed Sandals La Source St. Lucia.
At the time, Sandals, a multiple-award-winning hotel chain, employed over 1,800 people locally.
Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, a close friend, paid tribute to the late tourism icon via Facebook on Tuesday: “Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was never an ordinary man. He dreamed big, he thought big, he acted big. He was a visionary, a pioneer and a trailblazer. His son Adam described him as a ‘superhero’ and I concur because what he did for this region as a whole and for the islands in which he invested was transformative.”
SLHTA’s President Karolin Troubetzkoy this morning said “We have lost one of our most revered and respected Caribbean tourism icons. Gordon “Butch” Stewart was a pioneer and a perfectionist of an all-inclusive Caribbean hospitality model that other brands could never copy or come close to. The success of the brand over several decades speaks for itself. We must also thank him for his mentorship of and the countless career opportunities he created for Caribbean nationals, surpassed only by his considerable philanthropy through the Sandals Foundation.”
Stewart, who also at the time of his death headed ATL Group of Companies, which includes one of Jamaica’s main news outlets, Jamaica Observer Limited — which he founded in 1993 — was born in Kingston, Jamaica on July 6, 1941.
His knack for salesmanship eventually led to him establishing his own business in 1968 – Appliance Traders Limited – which imported and sold air-conditioning units, water coolers, stoves and other household appliances.
Undoubtedly, Stewart will be best remembered for his pioneering influence and legacy in the region’s hospitality industry, having made Sandals the region’s first world-class brand. He was awarded many awards for his work, including Jamaica’s highest honours — the Order of Jamaica (OJ) and Commander of the Order of Distinction (OD).
Stewart was also presented with Honorary Doctor of Law degrees from the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2001, and from the University of Technology, Jamaica, in 2009, as also a Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from Johnson and Wales University in 2011. He also earned Lifetime Achievement Awards from The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, Travel Weekly and Globe Travel Awards.
The Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association recognizes the trailblazing efforts displayed by Stewart and hopes they serve in some measure to inspire many more successes within our sector.
Statement by Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet on the passing of Mr. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart
Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was never an ordinary man. He dreamed big, he thought big, he acted big. He was a visionary, a pioneer and a trailblazer. His son Adam described him as a ‘superhero’ and I concur because what he did for this region as a whole and for the islands in which he invested was transformative.
As a young Director of Tourism in the nineties, I convinced him to take a chance on Saint Lucia and he did. Three hotels and 2,000 jobs later, the legacy and impact of Sandals is indisputable. No one individual has ever left such an indelible footprint on the Caribbean region or been more responsible for the development of the ‘Caribbean’ brand.
Butch Stewart was a marketing and branding genius, creating the first world-class Caribbean brand with his Sandals product. His quest for bigger and better led to the unprecedented growth of his hotel chain and global recognition of the Sandals brand. I have lost a former boss from my airline days, a mentor and more importantly, a close friend but the Caribbean has lost an irreplaceable icon.
Thousands of persons in this region have jobs and careers because of Butch Stewart, the world knows more about the Caribbean and Saint Lucia because of Butch Stewart, our tourism product is surviving in spite of Covid in large measure because of Butch Stewart and the Caribbean tourism industry is as strong as it is today because of Butch Stewart.
Many working directly and indirectly in tourism may not attribute their careers to him, but they most certainly have benefited from all that he did to develop the industry. In spite of all his successes and recognition on the global stage, he remained a Jamaican boy at heart, a family man, a lover of all things Caribbean and a tireless advocate for Caribbean people.
I am forever grateful for the time we had together and I will forever cherish all that I learnt from him.
On behalf of the Government and People of Saint Lucia and my own family, I extend heartfelt condolences to the Stewart family and the extended Sandals family.
May he forever rest in peace.