Sandals’ Adam Stewart: Sustainable tourism depends on hospitality, community, and training | STC Grenada

by W. Andrew Powell
Adam Stewart - Sandals Resorts

Sustainable tourism in the Caribbean depends on people, the planet, prosperity, purpose, and for Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International, most importantly, partnership.

“[T]here is magic happening down here, but we must start this conversation of sustainability… with the acceptance that this only works–before we get into academia, buzzwords, and next generational thinking–this only works if it works for everyone.”

At the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Sustainable Tourism Conference in Grenada, the business leader kicked off his keynote talking about what he believes will drive a better future for the region. He sees the future driven by partnerships that bring together the private and the public sector.

“[The] Caribbean community is an amazing thing,” he said. “Each of these islands have their super powers, and it is my own belief that the centre of our core superpower is hospitality.”

Where tourism in so many Caribbean countries accounts for more than 40% of the GDP, Stewart believes that each destination needs to remember the height of the global pandemic, that shut down borders, when partnerships were essential.

“We did what you do in a crisis; we pulled together. We unified. We, for the first time in the Caribbean, recognized that we are only as strong as we are together.”

“Some did it better than others, but the fact remains that the Caribbean was the world’s fastest recovering region, anywhere.”

Grenada's Cultural Extravaganza at the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market
Grenada’s Cultural Extravaganza at the Grand Anse Craft and Spice Market

The Caribbean welcomed 28.3 million registered tourist visits in 2022, representing 88.6% of the visitors who arrived in 2019. This year, Grenada has already seen an increase of 24% in stayover visitors compared to 2019. It’s a sign of what’s possible, and what the future could bring for destinations.

“Opportunities are greater today than they were many years ago, and to the degree that we can get those things to work together, the main thrust–agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and all the services working in harmony, private sector and public sector–will define our future,” he said.

“It means that there’s more opportunity, which means that we as business leaders and we as policy makers in government have to dig deeper. We have to stop, as the Prime Minister [of Grenada] said, relying or pointing to say; ‘that’s government’s business.’ ‘That’s private sector business.'”

“The sooner we come together with a collective to understand that it is our Caribbean business, is the sooner that we will get advancement.”

He pointed to Sandals’ growth over the years as an example of what the Caribbean is capable of doing, and training is key. He considers the company’s Sandals University as a great success story to train people, but he also says that it’s more than training.

“The greatest thing we can do for one another is to teach a man to fish beyond giving him a fish.”

“We’re by far the largest employer in a Caribbean, and the difference between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the island of Grenada and Jamaica; it’s all one thing: expose the people. Give them the opportunity. Let them go. They will do a better job than you can even comprehend, if you allow the beauty of our Caribbean cultures to come out in warm and genuine hospitality. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the secret.”

“I believe we must approach all of this with humility, with inclusivity, with open dialog in order for all to come.”

Looking at Grenada and the Pure Grenada brand, he added that the key for places like this is also simply embracing nature, and stepping outside to offer visitors true wellness.

“It’s nirvana.”

Photos by W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.

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