Grenada credits Sandals for uplift in tourist visits
Rudy Grant, chief executive officer of Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) has credited Sandals Resorts International's entry into the eastern Caribbean island for a 19 per cent increase in stopover tourist arrivals in the last three years.
The Jamaican hotel chain, which is celebrating 35 years in the tourism industry, owns and operates the five-star 257-room Sandals LaSource in Point Salines, Pink Gin Beach, employing over 500 persons.
Airlift has probably seen the most significant impact, so has branding of the destination, Grant said.
Prior to the chain's entry, the Spice Island had three weekly flights, "that number immediately moved to seven, while Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and American Airlines, upped their ante", said Grant, revealing that there was more willingness by the airlines to meet at the table.
Having a brand like Sandals investing in the country has brought marketing support that the GTA never had money to finance, the GTA executive said.
"Not only has the country seen an increase in visitors, but service quality has improved considerably, while linkages have been strengthened, particularly between the small agricultural, fishing sector and the resort.
"There have also been further opportunities in terms of attractions and tours and exposure to other elements that are Grenada."
Grant describes this using a scenario of 'when the tide rises, all the boats rise', adding that hotel chain's presence in Grenada has served this saying very well.
Local tour operator Edwin Frank and spice vendor, Wilma Smith bolstered the statements made by Grant, explaining the economic impact the resort has had on the entire country of 100,000 inhabitants.
"Before the Sandals LaSource's opening, Grenada's hotel sector was seasonal, with rotation taking place during the summer months," Frank told Gleaner Business.
Its hotel sector also includes Radisson, Coyaba, Kalingo Beach Resort, True Blue Bay, Maca Bana, Calabash Luxury Boutique, Laluna and Blue Horizon, among others.
Frank said every hotel on the island is now benefitting from new carriers such as Condor, Air Canada, Jetblue and Delta. "It has been a win-win situation, with a multiplying effect, directly and indirectly. It speaks volumes and using the terminology 'trickling effect' would be putting it mildly."
According to Frank the hotel supports the local industry as much as possible, instead of importing. Although, with inconsistency and difficulty in getting the right amount of agricultural produce, the resort has had to import a significant percentage of the food it uses.
Franks says periodically his company caters to the hotel's VIP guests.
In the case of Wilma Smith, her business in the vendors' market has grown from one to four stalls.
Smith supplies the hotel with gift packages of spices and chocolate. Three years ago during construction period, she boldly made her way to the property and offered her services.
"I have not looked back. Since Sandals, my business has grown and my standard has improved," she stated, adding that the group was a good company to work for. She supplies the hotel every two months.
Another sector that boasts of the benefits of the tourism sector and Sandals LaSource's advent is entertainment. Andre Garvey, a costume designer, provides props and clothing, particularly for special events at the resort.
"Sandals has changed how entertainment is viewed. Now there is a demand and new opportunities for performers," said Garvey, while noting that the hotel group takes entertainment very seriously.