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Jamaica's Butch Stewart picks Almond in Barbados

Bevan Springer | 5/2/2012, 7:02 p.m.
NEW YORK (April 12, 2012)--Caribbean tourism czar Gordon "Butch" Stewart is shining his suit of...
Jamaica's Butch Stewart picks Almond in Barbados

NEW YORK (April 12, 2012)--Caribbean tourism czar Gordon "Butch" Stewart is shining his suit of armor and readying his steed to ride in as the White Knight to rescue a resort in distress.

At risk is the luxury beachside Almond Beach Village resort in Barbados, which is facing imminent closure. Stewart plans to clean up the property, pump in some money and launch a new resort on the island.

The Jamaican businessman and chairman of Sandals International is moving to acquire the Trinidad and Tobago-owned Almond resort--which closes at month's end--following a failed attempt many years ago to develop the old Paradise resort on the island, now the future home of a Four Seasons.

In an interview with the Nation newspaper in Barbados, Stewart indicated that a number of technical experts had already visited the island and that the evaluation process of the prospects of "Sandalizing" the property had begun. He tantalized reporters by hinting that his family-oriented brand, Beaches, would be more suitable for Barbados.

"I think Barbados for us is a void, and I think Sandals would do a lot of good for Barbados. I think Barbados would [also] do a lot for Sandals," said Stewart, adding, "It is time to go back to Barbados and try to make the best of it."

Barbados, like other Sandals destinations, is expected to significantly benefit from the Sandals/Beaches brand, given the huge sums of marketing resources it spends to maintain close to full annual occupancies at its properties.

The plan to dispose of Neal and Massy Holdings-owned Almond resorts has been on the cards for several months, and the Beach Village property is being closed immediately due to "the deteriorating quality of the product," officials report.

Neal and Massy has already successfully disposed of Almond Morgan Bay in St. Lucia and retains interest in an additional two Almond properties in Barbados--Almond Beach Club in St. James and Almond Casuarina Beach in Christ Church.

According to press reports in Trinidad, Almond is buckling under millions of dollars in accumulated, bad and related-party debt.

Meanwhile, Sandals Resorts has inked an agreement with the Trinidad and Tobago-based Toute Bagai Publishing Company (TBP) to publish a third edition of the award-winning Sandals Style magazine, which was launched in 2010 by TBP.

TBP Managing Director Neysha Soodeen said the contract extension is "a significant vote of confidence, endorsing the company's continuous efforts in production excellence. Sandals expects nothing but perfection from their suppliers, so we were happy when Sandals expressed an interest for us to continue to produce and publish their official in-room magazine."

The Sandals Style magazine, a complimentary feature of every room and suite at Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts in five Caribbean islands, reaches more than 1 million visitors to the region. It is also mailed directly to Sandals Select members ahead of their visits to the Caribbean.