Adam Stewart unveils a timeless resort near a cascading waterfall

His name rang from the podium and in every private conversation among the small gathering, walking distance from the beach where he swam as a child and in the shadow of Jamaica’s leading tourist attraction, the beguiling Dunn’s River Falls.

The great Gordon ”Butch” Stewart, his January 4 passing still raw for those who loved him fiercely, loomed large at the ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday for the new Sandals Dunn’s River that his son, Adam Stewart, made clear would honour the vision of the man and help to protect his awe-inspiring legacy.

Adam Stewart who, as executive chairman of the Sandals Resorts International (SRI), shoulders the weight of the burgeoning resort empire left by Butch Stewart, unveiled the Sandals Dunn’s River, with the eager approval of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and several of his ministers.

Stewart described the project as the first of its kind in Jamaica and the actualisation of SRI’s first investment to move the company and country forward after a pandemic.

“Today began with a purchase my father and I jumped at last year of two historic Jamaican hotels and a parcel of land adjacent to the place where we gather right now, Sandals Dunn’s River or what will once again be Sandals Dunn’s River when we complete a ‘Sandalization’ that will absolutely transform this property,” said Stewart.

His reference was to a time between 1991 and 2010 when Sandals managed the property then owned by Life of Jamaica, now Sagicor. Eleven years after disengaging from the management contract, Sandals is now the owner of what in phase one will be Sandals Dunn’s River, to later add Sandals Royal Dunn’s River.

Sounding just as his dad would, Stewart told the event: “We have always operated with a future lens and today is the definition of the possibilities of tomorrow. The essence of innovation; the idea that the best is ahead. Investing in the future guarantees opportunity — for the Caribbean, for our people and for the brand.

“By continuing on this path to invest in the Caribbean, we will lead the recovery of the tourism industry in the region from a position of strength. It is this drive that defines us.

“Sandals Resorts International is a Jamaica-based, wholly owned family enterprise. We were established 40 years ago in 1981, when my dad was 40 and the year I was born. Now I am 40 and with the blessing of my family and the support of the incredible and dedicated SRI team, I intend to carry on my father’s legacy of uncompromised innovation. And we begin here today, where it all started and where it will go on, at home.

“After the year we have all had, we got here today because we never gave up. At Sandals we never stopped reinvesting and we never left the marketplace. When others pulled back, we kept our teams in place and on the job. We have one of the largest sales forces of any hotel chain and we kept them intact. We were always here. We didn’t go anywhere and when the time was right we were the first to reopen our doors and work alongside major airline carriers to be ready for when customers could come back.

“And as travel makes its return, we will continue to do the single most important thing we have always done — drive business to the Caribbean. We spend millions investing in brand recognition and education about this beautiful country and not once did we halt the aggressive advertising and promotion of our style of luxury-included vacationing because we know the impact of our work on the people and places we call home.”

He went on to describe a timeless resort in the making that would slip easily into the minds of the millions of visitors who make the trek to the island to cavort in the cascading waters of the Dunn’s River Falls; and outlined future plans for expansion in Jamaica.

“We begin with a two-phase, US$230-million redevelopment plan here at Dunn’s River. Phase I begins with the total transformation of Sandals Dunn’s River… Our plan is to have the new Sandals Dunn’s River ready to accept guests for the winter season beginning the fourth quarter of next year.

“We are actively working on a third property Beaches Runaway Bay. It will entail a complete demolition and they’ll be more to come… It is a catalyst, an engine that will make real and lasting economic impact. From construction workers and resort employees to the linkages we will foster from transportation and tour to agriculture and manufacturing…

“Sandals Dunn’s River was the last project my father and I collaborated on and his foresight is why we stand here today. At its essence, the new Sandals Dunn’s River pays homage to the natural beauty of Jamaica and of Ocho Rios, where the sound of moving water from Dunn’s River and Roaring Waters is ever present.

“It’s that calming sound of water in motion that will greet guests – from a cascading waterfall at the resort’s entrance and be with them throughout their stay, with water pulled and recirculated from the natural reserves that are part of life here.

“Sandals Dunn’s River will offer a total of 260 rooms including 48 signature Skypool Suites — a new Sandals category for Jamaica and an engineering marvel, featuring a private cantilevered, solar-heated plunge pool with infinity edge; 12 ‘Swim up Rondoval Suites’ with many featuring a ‘Rooftop Terrace’. “The features include incredible sanctuary suites for the ultimate in privacy and service; 10 restaurants including a specialty rum bar inside the brand’s newest Latin Fusion restaurant concept Azuka and a first of its kind new Red Lane Spa, focused on wellness; nine bars; seven pools, including two river pools.

“Phase II is the creation of sister-property Sandals Royal Dunn’s River, with 250 luxurious rooms and suites that will use the unique land elevation and running water throughout the property to create the most stunning architecture.

“A spectacular rooftop pool will grace the top of the structure and we’ll bring cuisines from six nations around the world for guests to indulge in. A blue mountain coffee shop will delight guests and pay tribute our blend known the world over. It will be the most boutique and sophisticated all-inclusive resort in Jamaica with generous exchange privileges between the two properties. It is slated for completion in 2023.

“There is nothing in the marketplace like it and my dad’s fingerprints are all over these plans to set a new standard of luxury in Jamaica and although he cannot be with us to see its ultimate transformation, he will always be a part of everything we do.

“All that will come next will be in tribute to him and because of him. I cannot fully express how sincerely thrilled we are to begin this work here at home and I thank you for being here today and taking part in what is just the beginning of our next 40 years.

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