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The Telegraph

How Sandals – and its ebullient founder – reinvented holidays in the Caribbean

Such was the familiarity of the Godfather of Jamaican and Caribbean tourism that everyone simply called him ‘Butch’. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, who died on January 4, was an affable man, ebullient and immensely energetic, a giant in the tourism industry who would talk to anyone. He was a salesman and a great communicator, for his businesses and for Jamaica, and his influence stretched throughout the Caribbean and beyond. Butch Stewart had humble beginnings, raised on Jamaica’s north coast, but he was an entrepreneur from the start, and caught the wave of several Caribbean industries. In the 1960s he set up his first company, distributing and servicing air conditioners, then becoming popular on the island. This carried him through the Seventies, a difficult political and economic period in Jamaica, and his success and energy left him poised to ride the Caribbean wave of mass tourism in the Eighties. In 1981 he bought a tired hotel in Montego Bay and re-opened it as a Sandals resort. His vision was clear – to bring back Caribbean romance for a new generation of tourists; time for couples to enjoy without children shrieking at the poolside, nor the holiday camp air of a singles club. He was obsessive about service (then not an easy thing in the Caribbean), but his key innovation was to make his hotels all-inclusive, in which everything, from food and alcohol to watersports, was included. It freed guests of money concerns and his staff from nightly accounting rounds. His line was that “Sandals didn’t invent the all-inclusive, but we perfected it”.


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