Sandals-affiliated tour company to double Caribbean footprint
Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours, identified as a sister operation to Sandals Resort International (SRI), added Barbados and Cayman Islands to its itinerary earlier this year but the three-year-old company is still cruising for new markets as it develops its income streams.
Island Routes now operates in seven Caribbean markets, but says it plans to double its footprint by early 2014.
"We are trying to be twice our size with 15 islands 18 months from now," Adam Stewart, the CEO of both Island Routes and SRI, said Tuesday.
Island Routes will add Grenada in early 2013. SRI two weeks ago acquired its first hotel property in the tiny Eastern Caribbean island in a US$100-million deal with the Grenadian government for La Source.
Stewart has declined to disclose what the push will cost the group, but said start-up costs of US$5 million for Island Routes have been recovered, with the company now focused on opening up new revenue streams and driving profit.
Stewart said the tour company is developing a 'white label' affiliate programme, under which hotels can offer Island Routes packages to its guests for a commission.
It's also offering co-branded packages.
Island Routes offerings include swimming with the dolphins, estate tours, golfing, river tubing, 4x4 safaris, deep-sea fishing, and zipline tours.
Montego Bay-based Island Routes is a trading name owned by Sunisland Routes Adventure Tours Limited. Sunisland was incorporated registered in Jamaica in February 2009, is based in Montego Bay.
Stewart declined to name the owners of the company, but Companies Office records list him as well as David Davies and Donald Smith as directors of Sunisland Routes. The sole shareholder in Sunisland was identified as another company called Caribbean Adventure Tours Limited.
Island Routes' seven Caribbean outposts employs 150 directly.
"In three years, the company has grown from 75 employees to currently 150, as we have placed a heavy significance on our growth and expansion strategy. Although we began as the exclusive provider of tours for Sandals and Beaches resorts, we have since expanded to offer our tour and excursion portfolio to travel agents across the globe, no matter which hotel they're sending their clients to, and now have nearly 10,000 active agents who are registered to sell our tours," said Stewart.
Its competitors include Chukka Caribbean Adventures, operated by the Melville and Byles families.
Stewart said he got the inspiration to create Island Routes while in Africa.
"During my honeymoon in Africa, I was inspired by a remarkable tour experience which helped me realise that a Caribbean organisation (might) have the ability to offer a similarly amazing and seamless experience in this region also," he told Wednesday Business.
The product was also designed to incorporate his childhood experiences of river tubing, bamboo rafting, ATV and dune buggy safaris, deep-sea sport fishing, and discovering off-the-beaten-path adventures and hidden waterfalls.
"These were not something that everyone was exposed to, but something that everyone could enjoy," he said.
Since the 2009 launch in Jamaica, Island Routes outposts were established in Antigua, The Bahamas, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, St Lucia and the Turks & Caicos Islands; and next year Grenada.
Challenges in the process have included "ensuring the business requirements are met with our partners, for example, securing the appropriate insurance and the maintenance of the overall quality standards, which is one of the company's unique selling propositions: offering peace of mind to our clients," Stewart said.
The company is currently investing in its marine division which includes a fleet of catamaran vessels and fishing boats.
"Growth is always top of mind for us at Island Routes. We embrace the ethos that more vacationers are looking to experience a destination and embark on unique adventures while they're on vacation. We plan to invest in the marketplace by aligning ourselves with great partners, operating and facilitating more tours in all our destinations, as well as growing our market share into new destinations - including Grenada - while remaining the only tour and excursion company with a pan-Caribbean reach," Stewart said.