Tributes were pouring in from all over the world to legendary Jamaican entrepreneur Gordon "Butch" Stewart, the founder of Sandals Resorts International who died at 79 in Miami.

The Sandals Resorts portfolio spans more than 20 properties across the Caribbean, including 15 under its adults-only Sandals brand and three under its family-friendly Beaches flag.

Speaking on behalf of his family, Stewart's son Adam Stewart, now the chairman of Sandals Resorts International, said, "Our father was a singular personality, an unstoppable force who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations and whose passion for his family was matched only by the people and possibility of the Caribbean, for whom he was a fierce champion."

Nothing "except maybe a great fishing day, could come before family to my dad," he added. "And while the world understood him to be a phenomenal businessman -- which he was -- his first and most important devotion was always to us. We will miss him terribly forever."

Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said in a statement, "Butch was truly an icon and innovator, philanthropist and perhaps the greatest marketer tourism has ever seen.

"Sandals is indeed the largest and most enduring brand created by a Caribbean entrepreneur in tourism and arguably the world today, and the standard by which luxury all-inclusive is judged."

In a Twitter post, Jamaica's prime minister, Andrew Holness, called the late Stewart "one of Jamaica's most brilliant, innovative and transformative business minds."

"Butch was a man way ahead of his time," added Holness. "He was an extraordinary human being with an unwavering commitment to the social good."

According to Jennifer Doncsecz, president of Pennsylvania-based VIP Vacations, Stewart has also had an indelible impact on the travel advisor community.

"He was one of the first in the industry to really show appreciation for travel agents and hold award ceremonies," said Doncsecz, the first advisor to be awarded Sandals' and Beaches' top-tier Diamond award, with a minimum of 3,500 room nights sold annually.

"He always aligned with travel agents and truly made us feel valued," added Doncsecz.

 Sally Jane Smith, president and CEO of New Jersey-based agency TravelSmiths, called Stewart a "visionary" within the all-inclusive space.

"He just kept on shaping and redesigning the experience," said Smith, citing Stewart's continual expansion of accommodation offerings, from butler suites to overwater bungalows.

Smith also had fond memories of Stewart's larger-than-life personality.

"He was always laughing and knew how to make things fun, and he always made you feel comfortable," said Smith. "You could just tell he lived life to the fullest."

In a statement posted on the Internova Travel Group website, Internova founder and chairman Mike Batt characterized Stewart as a “lifelong champion for travel advisors.”

“During the past few months, I had the pleasure and honor of speaking with Butch a number of times,” Batt said. “He was full of energy, optimism, kindness and wisdom, and after each call, I came away feeling totally uplifted, despite the problems that we all currently face. He never wavered in his support.”

Updated: This report was updated to include a statement from Internova Travel Group.


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