There’s a hidden layer of beauty whenever you dance on the beach at Sandals South Coast or take in the ocean views at Sandals Grande Antigua: you’re doing a world of good just by being there. With every massage and every stay, you’re helping Sandals Resorts International (SRI) lift up the people of the Caribbean and support the work of the Sandals Foundation. Even better, whenever a guest donates to the Foundation, everything becomes more beautiful — a school, a forest, a village, and even the gorgeous sea outside your balcony.
To commemorate Sandals Resorts’ 40th year, the Sandals Foundation and SRI team members have launched the 40-for-40 Initiative, choosing 40 outreach projects that exemplify Sandals’ ongoing commitment to the islands where we operate. These 40 projects fall under six key areas: Conservation Efforts and Tours; Investing in Food Security by supporting and working with local farmers; Hospitality Training and Certifications aimed at ensuring ongoing excellence; maintenance of cultural heritage through Support of Local Artisans and Music Education and Entertainment; and bolstering local economies through Small Business and Community Market Support.
“We know that tourism has the power to transform,” says Sandals Resorts’ Executive Chairman, Adam Stewart, who was born and raised in Jamaica and launched the Sandals Foundation in 2009. “It transforms the lives of our locals, our team members, and even our guests who help make an impact in our communities. This year we especially want everyone to experience that kind of impact more intimately.”
How much more enjoyable is the gourmet meal, knowing that the chefs have sourced ingredients from the island?
How much more pleasant is it to sleep next to the sea, knowing that its underwater ecosystems are healthier because the local fishermen have adopted sustainable methods?
How many more moments from a trip will become indelible memories?
Since its inception, the commitment to improve life in the Caribbean has defined Sandals as naturally as “blue” defines a clear sky. When Adam’s father and Sandals’ founder, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, remodeled his first resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 40 years ago, he saw it as an opportunity to innovate Caribbean luxury and to also do good for the island that his family had called home for at least seven generations. He provided jobs for people in nearby communities rather than hiring from abroad. He built recreation centers, funded schools, and established environmental programs.
“Giving back to the Caribbean and its people has always been in our DNA. We live here. These are our friends and neighborhoods,” Stewart says. “But for us, the work becomes even more beautiful and even more powerful when our guests are part of the tapestry. It’s all about helping to transform the Caribbean, together.”
So how exactly will the 40-for-40 Initiative projects transform the Caribbean, and how can you get involved? Let’s take a deeper look!
Ensuring that local communities can secure healthy, nutritious food is a priority and one that is closely tied to the power of tourism. Together with the Sandals Foundation, SRI is ramping up its investments in agriculture and the institutions that will train the next generation of producers.
Barbara Stewart, for example, learned the value of composting when she grew green beans among her mother’s tomatoes as a little girl in Jamaica. Today, she tends a large farm, providing healthy food for people in her surrounding area. Bolstered by the Sandals Foundation, composting techniques just like hers are spreading to other regions such as Turks & Caicos as part of the company’s 40-for-40 initiative.
Guests at Beaches Turks & Caicos will soon have the opportunity to work alongside (and learn from) farming experts at on-site workshops and in local schools. Mom, dad, and the kids will see first-hand the beauty of reducing waste and growing sustainable food supplies all at once.
Similarly, guests at Sandals Grenada will encounter kiosks where they can sample sauces and plant-based foods, as well as visit the fields where they are cultivated by the Grenrop Women’s Farmers and youth. The resort gift shop also sells the products, so guests can take a sweet part of the Spice Island home, while supporting the people who make it so special.
Sustainability has long been a word associated with tourism, but the Caribbean is our home and its crystal-clear waters are a source of joy and life not only for those who visit, but for those who rely on its resources, too. Through the Sandals Foundation, SRI has made the environment a priority, investing millions in education and advocacy programs, establishing marine sanctuaries, outplanting more than 12,000 coral fragments and engaging over 55,000 local people in conservation efforts. Now, the team will advance its efforts to protect the region's natural resources by expanding opportunities for marine conservation.
For starters, the Sandals Foundation and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) are introducing Sea the Legacy of Love Scholarships. Honoring SRI’s founder and late chairman, Gordon ‘Butch' Stewart, and his love for the sea, the program will provide training and certification for 40 people living on six Caribbean islands, so they can grow their careers in the marine space, rehabilitate aquatic habitats, and influence friends and visitors to protect the underwater life.
The organic spread of conservation has already worked beyond expectations at two marine sanctuaries in Jamaica — Whitehouse, near Sandals South Coast in the south, and Boscobel, near Sandals Ochi and Sandals Royal Plantation in the north. Fish populations there increased 700% after the Sandals Foundation gained the trust of once-reluctant fishermen, who are now the greatest ambassadors of reef protection. A kindred approach is being implemented in Grenada and Saint Lucia, where teams will outplant thousands of corals, and maintain and grow the vibrancy of reefs and fisheries. Even the youngest school-age children will learn to take pride in their island and the gorgeous sea.
Far above the sea, in the hills of Antigua, the staff and guests of Sandals Grande Antigua will dig into the long-term goal of replenishing trees in a 1,680-acre preserve. And near Sandals Royal Bahamian, teams are helping to plant foliage in a way to ensure that sand dunes can build themselves back into their beautiful selves in the aftermath of storms.
For years, guests of Sandals and Beaches Resorts have been able to purchase locally made items at its retail shops, proceeds of which are reinvested into local community groups. Through carefully curated crafts, artisans not only keep the culture of their communities alive but provide employment to an extended network of supply chain producers and distributors.
If you were to travel up the winding roads into Jamaica’s Blue Mountains or directly off the hard streets on the fringe of Kingston, for example, you would witness the creation of art known only to these locales — candle holders made from alabaster stone and purses made from a rare type of reed. You’d also hear the creators singing the praises of the Sandals Foundation … miles and miles away from the nearest Sandals all-inclusive resort.
The Caribbean Artisan Program has worked so well in Jamaica that the 40-for-40 initiative will expand it into Curaçao, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas, and Turks & Caicos. Crafts will be easier to find in resort gift shops and from on-site vendors. So, whenever you use the ceramic cheese block, you’ll remember the person who made it and the fact you added energy to a positive cycle where artisans become mentors and where proteges will soon tell stories of their own transformed lives.
The captivating spirit of the Caribbean is shaped by its people. To bridge the gap and give back to the community at large, the Sandals Foundation invests in local businesses like the Oistin’s Fish Fry in Barbados, where locals and visitors alike can meet with vendors, enjoy local artwork and pile their plates with mahi-mahi and flying fish. Through the support garnered by the 40-for-40 Initiatives, more guests across more resorts will be given the chance to step beyond the gates and explore local markets, and small businesses like eco tours, gardens, and more. Where visitors will directly engage with and support these vendors and their livelihoods.
Tourism is the largest employer in the Caribbean, directly and indirectly impacting the lives of more than 2 million people. To ensure the continued training of future industry players, the teams at SRI and The Sandals Foundation are supporting various hospitality training and certification programs to strengthen vocational skills in the areas of food & beverage, health, beauty and wellness as part of their 40-for-40 Initiatives.
Training in The Bahamas will teach the youth to cook alongside Sandals’ cuisine staff, tend bars next to mixologists, sharpen vocational skills, and surround themselves with happy employees and happy guests. Because, really, what’s more transformative than spreading joy?
The undeniable rhythms of Caribbean music from ska and calypso to Jamaica’s iconic reggae and dancehall are the soundtracks that keep visitors coming back and locals moving forward. That’s why it is critical to foster and train the next generation of performers and why music education will also be a key investment in the 40-for-40 Initiative.
Did you know one of the Sandals Foundation’s first-ever investments was the purchase of musical instruments for a local community? The children needed artistic and emotional outlets, which eventually developed into a marching band that now entertains locally and sometimes even at Sandals Montego Bay.
Fast forward to today, and the story will be continued with the training of brass-music instructors for high schools and colleges in Jamaica. High school students in Exuma will also be provided with instruments to support music education.
Because music is synonymous with Jamaican culture, the year’s 40-for-40 celebration will culminate with a showcase of talent at a Vibes on the Island event in Miami. Sandals Resorts’ loyal guests will be invited to join in the celebrations where they’ll share stories of their memorable trips and unforgettable people. And while the music plays and the joy spreads, they’ll be reminded of just how far the transformative power of tourism can resonate.
Want to hear more about the Sandals Foundation's 40-for-40 projects? Listen in on the Sandals Palmcast by clicking here!
For a full list of Sandals’ 40-for-40 Initiatives, visit: https://news.sandals.com/article/1629/.