ROSE HALL, St James – Chief executive officer of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) Adam Stewart says the hotel chain has spent more than US$150 million over the past five years to upgrade its 12 properties across the island.
“Since 2010 we have spent US$156 million on our existing properties in Jamaica, ‘Sandalising’ and upgrading them to what we called a luxury inclusive experience,” said Stewart.
Stewart was addressing the Jamaica Investment Forum (JIF) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall on Wednesday during a panel discussion on ‘Jamaica’s Homegrown Multi-nationals’.
According to Stewart, the upgrade included the construction of new restaurants, the renovations of rooms and suites, installation of jacuzzis, fire pits and new pools “which allowed us to bring them [the resorts] up to proper international five-star hotels. It’s really a lot of work that we have done to ramp up ours service and standards,” he stressed.
Stewart, who noted that the island has the “hardest and most diligent workforce in the Caribbean”, said the hotel chain’s biggest asset is its workforce.
He said Sandals Resorts spends roughly US$2 million in Jamaica annually to undertake a raft of training and development programmes for its more than 7,000 employees.
Meanwhile, group CEO for GraceKennedy Don Wehby, who was among the panellists, said his company is well positioned to sell a wide range of products to Cuba if that Caribbean island opens up. “GraceKennedy is well-positioned at the right time to start selling our products into Cuba, and it’s a huge market,” said Wehby.
“We did an acquisition in the United States of a Hispanic company [Lafe] with Hispanic brands and we have subsequently renamed it GraceKennedy LLC, and because we now have a portfolio of Hispanic brands and food products, when Cuba opens up we are willing and waiting to go into Cuba because we have the products already.”
The products, he said, include beans, juices and cassava.
Wehby also said GraceKennedy Ghana Ltd, set up two years ago in Tema, just outside the country’s capital, has seen phenomenal growth over the past year.
“Ghana is doing exceptionally well for us. In fact, our sales in Ghana 2014 over 2013 is up by over 131 per cent. Our juices, mackerel, corned beef… are all doing very well there,” he said.
He added that his company is currently having discussions with the principals of global money transfer company Western Union in an effort roll out GraceKennedy’s Western Union business in West Africa.
“We represent Western Union in nine different markets — Guyana, Antigua, Jamaica, Trinidad and islands in the Eastern Caribbean — and because we have now set up business in Ghana, I am saying that since we have our own company in Ghana, why can’t we have a Western Union in Ghana? so we are having discussions with the head of Western Union to see if there is going to be any opportunity for us,” he explained.
JIF 2015, the island’s premier international investment and business conference, which began on Tuesday, ended yesterday.
The forum saw executive-level representatives from 90 local and international organisations including North America, Pakistan, Turkey, China, India, Spain, France, and United Kingdom participating.
Published Date: March 13th, 2015