My recent trip to Sandals Ochi in Ocho Rios, Jamaica began with a two hour bus ride from the Montego Bay airport to the resort. I was exhausted from a long day of travel, but I willed myself awake so I could soak in the views along the way. It was my first trip to Jamaica and I didn’t want to miss one second of it.
Aside from beautiful foliage which I hoped was the rain forest but I’ve since learned was actually wet forest (you can find the rain forest in other parts of Jamaica), there were many homes that appeared to be in various states of construction. I was fortunate to be traveling with my local representative for Sandals who is extremely knowledgeable about Jamaica (and the bus driver was more than happy to answer questions along the way as well). She explained that it is the Jamaican dream to own and build your own home. Rather than borrowing and owing like we do in Western cultures, they build and add on as they have the means. So they can live in the first level of a home while they work to earn the money to build the next level. I was impressed by the level of practicality and patience that they possess. There is something to be learned from those living on island time.
There were many people selling items on the side of the road or running shops from small buildings on their own property. The shops in town had hand painted signs and often sold a variety of items that were not related in any way. I had a sense that many Jamaican people are extremely entrepreneurial and self reliant, or at the very least they are determined to provide for their families.
A true Jamaican success story is that of Gordon “Butch” Stewart. In the early eighties, with no experience to draw from, this Jamaican born young man opened Sandals Montego Bay as a couples only resort. With perseverance through the hard times, he went on to open more all-inclusive Sandals resorts and earned the title of largest operator of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean by 1991. Sandals Resorts and their sister properties, Beaches Resorts for families, remain a family run business to this day.
The Stewart family has proven to be leaders in their field by continuously developing new ways to make vacations memorable. They were the first to introduce the swim up bar and the first Caribbean resort to provide hair dryers in the rooms. Their in room bars and butler service also set them apart.
I think the true success of Sandals and Beaches is rooted in their commitment to their guests and their country. The staff are extremely accommodating and pleasant. I enjoyed exchanging friendly banter with the bartenders as they made me their specialty drinks, and I don’t think I ever passed a staff member without receiving a friendly greeting. On more than one occasion I came across staff members singing or whistling to themselves as they worked.
My visit to Sandals Ochi was for the Grand Opening so I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Stewart. Dressed casually and sporting a huge smile, he emulates likability. He was always surrounded by a crowd of people who wanted to spend time with him and he seemed to love every second of it. He has every reason to be happy. He has created something that has provided jobs and tourism opportunities for the Caribbean. He gives back to his community through the Sandals Foundation, which you can learn more about in a future article. He has provided his family with a bright future, and he has provided countless tourists with the escape they were looking for.
Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, Sandals Resorts’ largest and Jamaica’s newest resort and the next big thing in the all-inclusive experience, marked its official grand opening with a celebration Monday night, June 1, 2015 with an audience of celebrities, top travel agents, tour operators and travel media. Following a multi-million dollar renovation project, the completely redesigned resort debuted a fresh, modern design aesthetic along with seven uniquely new Gourmet Discovery Dining options, the trendy Ochi Beach Club, reinvented resort entertainment, upgraded luxurious accommodations and more.
You can book your stay at Sandals Ochi or any of the other Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts by visiting their website.