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Sandals: We looked at Sheraton hotel takeover

Resort company will decide on whether to build new Exuma resort in coming year
  • Gordon 'Butch' Stewart.

Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Oct 24, 2013

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GREAT EXUMA – Sandals Resorts International Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has denied plans exist to take over operations at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort.

Stewart, who was a speaker at yesterday’s 8th annual Exuma Business Outlook, held at its Emerald Bay property, set the record straight on the issue, telling Guardian Business “that’s not true”.

But he did admit it was something the resort was considering.

“I know there have been talks circulating but that’s not true. We looked at it, but we are not taking it over,” he said.

Rumors had circulated that Sandals was interested in the property, as Starwood Hotel and Resorts Worldwide was considering pulling its Sheraton brand.

In late September, Starwood and Baha Mar executives both failed to confirm or deny such speculation. Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort General Manager Edward Baten said he could not “comment at this time” on the matter, while Robert Sands, senior vice president for external and governmental affairs for Baha Mar, which owns the hotel, said he would not “respond to rumors.”

Meanwhile, despite challenges, the Sandals Resorts chairman said business is getting better for the company in The Bahamas and as a result, plans to expand its properties in this country will continue.

It’s no secret that the Sandals properties in The Bahamas, particularly the Emerald Bay property have been struggling to operate with such high operational costs and for months, executives of the high-end property chain have been in discussions with the government, in an effort to find a solution to this vexing problem. Stewart said he is pleased with the outcome so far but stressed that they are “there to stay and here to work.”

While plans to expand both its Fowl Cay and Emerald Bay properties were revealed, Stewart stressed that it would have to be carefully planned out because “I don’t want to overdo it.”

At its Fowl Cay property, the kitchens and the homes have been renovated. And there are also plans to build another five or six villas.

“There are lot of expansions that go half way and stop but we don’t want to be like that,” according to Stewart.

Back in July, Guardian Business confirmed Sandals had acquired 50 additional acres of property in Great Exuma, on which it admitted it would “love” to open a Sandals or Beaches Resort. The vacant property is adjacent to the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort.

But plans have not been finalized as to what that land will be used for, either to create a Beaches Resort or expand its current Emerald Bay property.

Stewart said the land was acquired to ensure that it had the capacity to do so. But a decision on that is expected to be made next year.

“I guess in the next year, we will focus on which direction we will go and make some good plans. I think the potential is so good. But we need to strengthen certain aspects before we go any further. This development is a big, expensive one. We are making out okay so we just want to consolidate and move ahead. We’re committed, we love it here. We are making nice in-roads. Things are getting better,” he said to Guardian Business.

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.

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