Adam Stewart, deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International, was dining on tuna caught just an hour earlier when he called from a restaurant overlooking a marina on a certain Caribbean island.
He was excited.
"We're on a new island," he said. "A magnificent island. We will open a Sandals resort here. It's the first island outside the British Caribbean for us.
That island is Curacao where Sandals plans to hang its shingle in Q4 2021 after "Sandalizing" the former Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, which had opened as the Hyatt Regency Curacao in 2010.
Due to the pandemic and closed borders, the Santa Barbara's owner suspended all operations at the property in June.
"We'd had our eyes on this destination for several years," Stewart said. "From the moment we saw the site and the hotel, we loved it. The property sits on 3,000 acres in the Santa Barbara Estate along Spanish Water, a natural lagoon and bay, a 20-minute drive from the capital of Willemstad on Curacao's southern coast."
Sandals plans to fine-tune the 350-room hotel, which Stewart described as being in pristine condition, to add the signature Sandals pools, restaurants, swim-up rooms and, later on, rondaval suites.
The marketing focus of the resort will be golf on the adjacent 18-hole designer course, diving and gastronomy, according to Stewart.
He said the Stewart family's affinity for the Netherlands and its connections with the Dutch go way back.
"It's always all about the story," he said. "The first job my dad [Butch Stewart, founder of Sandals Resorts International] ever had was working for the Curacao Trading Company, an appliance business in Jamaica. I almost went to hospitality school in Holland after college. We respect the Dutch work ethic, and we love their food."
Visitors from the Netherlands, a major market for the Dutch islands of the Caribbean, arrive daily on KLM's flight from Amsterdam.
American and JetBlue already serve Curacao from the U.S. "and we're hoping to get more airlift from U.S. carriers," Stewart said.
"Curacao is not that well known by the American market, and we hope that our presence here will generate arrivals to this island that is a wonderful blend of Dutch and European gastronomy along with the flavor, the music and the people of the Caribbean."