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Sandals wants second Exuma resort

Acquires 50 acres of land adjacent to Emerald Bay property
  • Gordon Butch Stewart.

ALISON LOWE
Guardian Business Editor
alison@nasguard.com

Published: Jul 30, 2013

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Sandals has acquired 50 additional acres of property in Great Exuma, on which it would “love” to open a Beaches Resort, Guardian Business can confirm.

The Jamaican resort company said that while discussions are in the preliminary stages with respect to this next step for its presence in The Bahamas, the acquisition of the property, which is adjacent to the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort, has now gone through.

Sandals Resorts International Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart commented, “Whilst it’s very early days, we believe this acquisition will provide us with wonderful expansion opportunities in the future.

“We believe in the destination and share an exciting vision with the Government of The Bahamas that the Exumas could become a tourism mecca for the entire region.

“We have a strong affinity with The Bahamas and its people and it’s no secret that we’d love to open a Beaches Resort there, but I also take pride in the fact that we do what we say we’re going to and at this stage, we’re simply thinking and talking, not planning.”

The resort developer said that in deciding to go public with the latest information he was responding to inquiries from multiple sources locally and elsewhere about the company’s plans.

Beaches is another all-inclusive offering from Sandals, but one which permits family vacations, rather than being couples-only like the Sandals Emerald Bay and Royal Bahamian resorts.

The company has two other Beaches properties – in Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Should the resort company decide to go ahead with developing a second resort on the island, this should have an even greater initial impact on the local economy than the creation of the Sandals Emerald Bay would have had, given that the latter was created through the undertaking of renovations and upgrades to the existing former Four Seasons Emerald Bay resort, while the Beaches resort would need to be built from scratch.

It is likely that economies of scale will be a major factor in the company’s decision to move ahead with any second property adjacent to the current resort.

Sandals has commented on numerous occasions about the difficulty of operating in Great Exuma, speaking in March about low room rates, and last year about high utility costs, issues with airlift to the island and a lack of trained staff.

The company met with the government on a number of occasions towards the latter part of 2012 to discuss some of the “prohibitive” costs they were facing in operating their Exuma resort.

Responding to the news about possible expansion plans yesterday, Pedro Rolle, president of the Exuma Chamber of Commerce, greeted the news with muted optimism.

Adding that his view represents his “personal” opinion and not that of the Chamber of Commerce, since he had not had a chance to speak with the rest of the organization about the development, Rolle said that he would be most pleased if Sandals or another company could bring a more “open” resort to the island than Sandals Emerald Bay has proven to be.

“While I am not knocking in any way what we have here, my personal view is that I think it is beneficial that we have different types of things. We’ve got the all-inclusive; I would have been very happy if we had an open kind of investment that came to Exuma. It’s a different flavor it allows for more involvement in the community. They use the local taxis, they get out to do a lot more things.”

Comparing Sandals Emerald Bay to the Four Seasons resort which preceded it, Rolle said: “With an entity such as the Four Seasons, the spin off into the rest of the economy is felt in so many different ways, whereas I think (Sandals offers) a more auxiliary feedback.”

Rolle said that in an ideal world, Sandals may adapt its resort model to allow for more of a role for the local community in providing services to their guests.

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