Caribbean leaders endorse Sandals Corporate University
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
FOUR CARIBBEAN leaders on Wednesday heaped praises on Sandals Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart and his team at the launch of the resort chain's Corporate University at Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios.
The prime ministers of Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, and St Lucia, the four regions in which Sandals Resorts International has established its brand, congratulated the resort for its continued investment not just in infrastructure, but especially in the people.
Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica's prime minister, said the programme of the Sandals Corporate University (SCU) will prepare people in the hospitality industry and help them achieve a higher level of competence.
"I encourage every member of the Sandals family to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by this institution. Any institution which contributes to education, training and human resource development in the region must be commended."
Main speaker Dr Kenny Anthony of St Lucia said the establishment of the SCU marked a milestone for Caribbean tourism.
Speaking against the background of a transformation in St Lucia between 1997 and 2006 during which tourism replaced agriculture as the main foreign exchange earner, Anthony thanked Stewart for the role he played in the growth of the tourism sector in that country. Sandals currently operates three resorts in St Lucia.
"The establishment of SCU shows that the (tourism) sector has come of age. Only 15 to 20 years ago, tourism was considered a distant second or, in some cases, occupying third place on the ladder of economic progress.
"By taking such a bold step, Sandals Resorts International not only reaffirms its commitment to the growth of the tourism sector, but also sends a clear message about the confidence in the future of this industry."
The prime minister, however urged Sandals to seek to establish partnerships with universities in the Caribbean as this will benefit both parties.
Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda and Hubert Ingraham of The Bahamas also endorsed the SCU, with Spencer predicting further development of the corporate university concept.
Meanwhile, Sandals CEO Adam Stewart said the company is to pump US$5 million into the SCU.
"Our chairman has given us the green light to spend US$5 million over the next five years in taking and making this corporate university a reality,"Stewart said.
Each resort will host a campus of the university, with the directors of each department playing the role of dean.
"We (will) sit down, rewrite all our standard operating procedures, the universities come in and support us," he explained.
Over the next 12 months it is expected that more than 2,500 team members will begin to benefit from the university.
Among the partners that have made the SCU possible are the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning, Western Hospitality Institute, International Hospitality and Tourism Institute, Florida International University, and Ryerson University.