The Founder and President of Countrystyle Community Tourism Network/Villages as Businesses, Diana McIntyre-Pike, O.D., shares her thoughts, experiences, and feelings on the passing of travel and tourism stalwart Gordon “Butch” Stewart.
Butch was the founder, owner, and chairman of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, and their parent company Sandals Resorts International. He passed on Monday, January 4, 2021, at the age of 79.
As I confront the sadness of the loss, I recognize the great memories and contribution he has made to me, and my journey in community tourism. I met Butch upon his entry into the tourism industry and was very happy to be among his lead campaigners for him to be the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) President and immediately saw powerful qualities. Through a relationship of many years he was very supportive of my efforts in Community Tourism, and as a small hotelier.
When I was the Chairman of the Caribbean Hotel Association’s Small Hotels Committee, we made a pitch for the design of a ‘adopt a small hotel program’, which encouraged large properties to select a small hotel to adopt to give them support with purchasing equipment, crockery, cutlery, linen at their prices rather than the higher retail prices, since we could not order large quantities and benefit from bulk rates. Also, to offer business development, training and marketing support. Butch was the only large hotelier to respond positively to this program and sent me a letter stating that he would like to adopt my small hotel in Mandeville – The Astra Country Inn. It involved a launch at Sandals Negril, and it included a credit line for us to purchase well needed cutlery, towels, hand towels and wash rags. He then sent 7 rooms of furniture, including hairdryers.
Among most interesting memories and engagement with the community, was when he wanted to discover one of our Countrystyle Community Experience tours and we selected Resource Village, with its Marcus Garvey heritage and popular traditional way in making bammy which he participated in and afterwards enjoyed with the community, the freshly made ackee and saltfish, boiled bananas and fresh fruit. The testimony of his legacy lives on with the Sandals Foundation which has supported many community efforts across the country.
His support continued for me personally. In 2008, when I was nominated for Virgin Holidays Best Personal Contribution Responsible Tourism Award, a competition with 10,000 others from around the world at World Travel Market in London. I had difficulty getting sponsorship to attend, and he invited me to his office, and sat me down in his down to earth style, and urged me on, and provided the funding I needed, noting that the world must know about this. This was but one of many other times he personally offered his support, upfront and silently. He was pleased that I won this Award together with TUI UK.
These are just some examples, that fall into an overall tapestry of contribution, which others can testify to. He truly was an amazing person, and there will never be another Butch Stewart, but confident in the power of his legacy which lives on with his family and children.