Peers hail Stewart for 50 years in tourism industry
MIAMI – On Thursday, hundreds of Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s peers, filled out the ballroom of the prestigious JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami, heard Stewart’s rare personal account of how he built the Caribbean brand that daily brings an unending stream of tourists to frolic in the warm, blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and laze away on its pristine beaches.
While they seek to escape the icy chill of the northern climes, those tourists bring critical revenue to hard-up coffers of the islands where Stewart’s Sandals and Beaches resorts operate, making him the largest private foreign exchange earner and employer of labour for Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and second largest in The Bahamas.
The internationally respected Burba Hotel Network (BHN), a world leader in developing and producing conferences for the hotel investment community, chose its annual Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) to present the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award to Gordon “Butch” Stewart for 50 outstanding years of building Caribbean tourism.
Presenting the award in association with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, BHN President Jim Burba said Stewart had set the standard for the investment community, and his achievements would be used as the benchmark for future recipients of the accolade.
“I acknowledge that we have set the bar high, but there is no one more suitable than Butch Stewart to launch this programme. He is someone we are proud to own,” Burba said before presenting the award to the Sandals Resorts International chairman and founder who shared the onstage moment with his heir-apparent son, Adam Stewart.
Inviting the chairman to the stage, Adam Stewart also noted that this was his dad’s 50th year in business and that it was awesome for “CHRIS to recognise him at the pinnacle of his career, surrounded by colleagues and friends from our industry, family, executives and members of our team that have helped create so many of these dreams . . .”.
He described the elder Stewart as “our chairman, our friend, our grandpa, our dad, our boss, our hero, our icon”, sparking a standing ovation as Stewart took the stage.
Came the moment for Stewart to recite his life story, and though sharing snippets about the marketing genius that created one of the top three world-renowned Caribbean brands – the others are Fidel Castro and Bob Marley – he devoted his time at the podium to the people who helped him to do it, some of them in the audience.
Of the award, Stewart said: “The strength of this particular award is that it is given in good faith by peers and colleagues . . . . It is a big deal to me.”
“For the people in government, in the private sector, the people who understand the possibilities of tourism, we have started on a road that is only the beginning. The beauty of the beaches, the beauty of the people, the church-loving aspects of the whole thing make the Caribbean a place that has wealth, a daily gold mine . . . and we only need to focus on the abilities that we have in abundance to tap into the greatest market in the world,” said Stewart.
Keynote speaker, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, of St Vincent and the Grenadines, used the occasion to invite Stewart to bring Sandals Resorts to his island, noting that a modern airport had been built, along with many other modern infrastructure that would make for a successful tourism industry.
Sandals also operates resorts in Barbados and will soon be operating in Tobago. (Jamaica Observer)