The west hails the late Sandals boss

The west hails the late Sandals boss

Western Bureau

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) yesterday described the passing of hotelier and chairman of Sandals Resorts International Gordon “Butch” Stewart as an incredible loss to Jamaica and the Caribbean, as the business community across the western region expressed sadness at his death.

“Butch Stewart was the most powerful man in modern Jamaican history, who took the all-inclusive concept to the next level, taking the country on a trajectory that placed it on the world map in relation to hospitality,” said the chamber in a release yesterday.

MBCCI President Janet Silvera said, “He (Stewart) will always be celebrated as a proud Jamaican with vision and the audacity to build and sustain a world-class product that has elevated Jamaica’s iconic image in the hospitality industry.”

She noted that Stewart made history in 2015 when he became the first inductee in the MBCCI Hall of Fame, for his unstinting contribution to the city of Montego Bay.

“His significance in the building of Jamaica’s tourism industry is well-established globally, but he was also a major force in nation-building in so many ways. He built the ATL Group from scratch. That company has long expanded beyond trading in air-conditioners and appliances to include marketing, sales and services in high-end motor vehicles and destination and experience management. His investment in newspaper and radio changed the Jamaican journalism and media landscape, as did other innovations such as the Save the Dollar Initiative, Air Jamaica and Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival,” said Silvera.

She added that Stewart was very loyal to Jamaica and wanted the best for the country. This, she said, was evident in the role he played in building human capital as he spent billions of dollars on community development.

“Through Sandals Foundation we saw the epitome of a true philanthropist and humanitarian. His shadow will forever loom large across the Caribbean,” Silvera said.

Negril hotelier Daniel Grizzle described the hotel mogul as a patriotic man whose passing will leave an unfilled void in the industry.

“It will be a great loss to the industry and to Jamaica as a whole, and I may even extend it to the Caribbean because he was a Caribbean man. He was very patriotic. He was very much for Jamaica first and for the Caribbean second,” said Grizzle, the immediate past president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce (NCC).

“So, I don’t see or know of anyone that will quite replace him in that field. I think there can be only one Butch Stewart,” he argued.

Grizzle told the Jamaica Observer that he knew Stewart personally, and worked alongside him while he was president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) between the mid-1980s and 1990s.

“We had quite a few battles at that time in fighting for the industry. It was a time when there was a financial restriction where we couldn’t get any US dollars to purchase whatever you need for the industry. So he led the battle in ensuring properties like mine could access some US funds,” Grizzle recalled.

He said Stewart was “an accessible individual who made sure that both big and small players in the industry got a level playing field to operate in”.

And Richard Wallace, the current president of the NCC, told the Observer that the Negril community was shocked to hear of Stewart’s passing on Monday.

“He is going to be missed. Mr Stewart perfected the all-inclusive concept. He brought the standard of customer service to a level that others are chasing to reach as it sets the standard for tourism in Jamaica, and he will always be remembered for that,” expressed Wallace, who is also a hotelier.

Both Wallace and Grizzle expressed condolence to his family and the Sandals/ATL Group of Companies.

Chairman of Trelawny Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) steering committee Shellion Rhoden also expressed sadness at the hotel mogul’s passing.

“The TCCI is saddened by the passing of hospitality pioneer Mr Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. As a philanthropist he set the bar extremely high for others in the sector to follow. His eye for detail and his love for country put him a step above the rest and for those reasons his legacy will be embedded in history. Jamaica has lost an icon,” said Rhoden.

Meanwhile, Mayor of Montego Bay and Chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation Councillor Leeroy Williams yesterday hailed Stewart as an international icon and a true Jamaican ambassador.

“The Honourable Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart served the city of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and the world, with distinction in the fields of tourism and industry and commerce. His passing is a great loss to this nation and in particular to the island’s tourism sector – a sector which he has helped to build for over 40 years. When he purchased the then Bay Roc hotel and started the Sandals brand of all-inclusive resort, he literally opened up Jamaica to the world as a first-class tourism destination,” Mayor Williams said.

“Stewart was not just a man for all seasons, but could be described as a man who was well ahead of his time, in respect of the vision, desire and focus with which he worked to bring his dreams to reality, without losing the common touch and his ability to create employment and other opportunities for Jamaicans at all levels,” he said.

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