Sandals celebrates Ultra Awards

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia -- A blend of tropical breezes and cool jazz offered the perfect atmosphere for Sandals seventh annual Ultra Awards here at Sandals St. Lucia Golf Resort & Spa in Castries, St. Lucia.

The weekend event culminated with a black-tie awards banquet where Sandals' North American and U.K. travel industry partners received awards for outstanding sales performance and marketing innovation. Tour operators contracted with Sandals are eligible for the awards.

The event was co-hosted by disc jockeys Jade Alexander (Annette Amargos) and Footy (John Kross) of Miami's Y100.7 FM. A special performance was given by jazz flautist Nestor Torres who provided a soothing blend of Latin and jazz rhythms.

Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman of Sandals and Beaches Resorts International, applauded the efforts of the top-producing operators and wholesalers and thanked them for their support.

The Ultra Performance Awards are based on Sandals Resorts' sales figures from Aug. 1, 1999, to July 31, 2000.

Sales categories include Top Yield Performance (sales volume divided by room nights), Top Growth Production (largest dollar sales volume increase from 1998-99 to 1999-2000), Top Suite Seller, Top Group Producer, Top Producing Tour Operator, Top Producing Wholesaler and World's No. 1 Producer.

The winners are as follows:

In the performance category, Gogo Worldwide Vacations captured the award for World's No. 1 Producer for the seventh consecutive year. Travel Impressions took the second position, while Apple Vacations and Air Jamaica Vacations finished as the No. 3 and No. 4 producer, respectively.

The winner in the category of Top Producing Tour Operator, U.S., was Apple Vacations, with Funjet Vacations placing second and MLT Vacations filling the third slot.

Kuoni Travel took first place in the Top Producing Tour Operator, U.K., category. Second-, third- and fourth-place honors went to British Airways Holidays, Virgin Holidays and Thomas Cook Holidays, respectively.

First place in the Top Producing Tour Operator, Canada, category was captured by Air Canada Vacations. Second-place honors went to North America Leisure Group. Signature Vacations placed third and Holiday House finished in fourth place.

The Top Producing Wholesaler award went to Gogo Worldwide Vacations. Travel Impressions placed second and Air Jamaica Vacations finished in third place.

Leaders in Top Suite Seller category were Air Jamaica Vacations, for Sandals Dunns River and Sandals Negril; Apple Vacations, for Beaches Negril; Funjet Vacations, for Sandals Royal Caribbean; Gogo Worldwide Vacations, for Sandals Antigua, Sandals St. Lucia, Sandals Halcyon and Beaches Turks & Caicos; MLT Vacations, for Sandals Montego Bay; Sunburst Holidays, for Sandals Ocho Rios, and Travel Impressions, for Sandals Royal Bahamian.

Top Yield Performance awardees were Air Canada Vacations, for Beaches Negril; Apple Vacations, for Sandals Inn; Conquest Tours, for Beaches Turks & Caicos; Funjet Vacations, for Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Dunns River; Gogo Worldwide Vacations, for Sandals Antigua; GWV Travel, for Sandals Halcyon; MLT Vacations, for Beaches Inn; North American Leisure Group, for Sandals Royal Bahamian; Sunburst Holidays, for Sandals Negril and Sandals St. Lucia, and Travel Impressions, for Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Ocho Rios.

Top Production Growth, U.S., was awarded to Air Jamaica Vacations. Tradewinds received the Top Production Growth, U.K., honors.

The winner for Top Group Producer was Maritz Travel Co.

"I want to thank everybody -- we've had the best year ever," Stewart said. "We've been busy all year trying to make things look better."

Two new Beaches properties are slated to open this month in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The additions to the Sandals and Beaches chain are the Beaches Grande Sport at Ciboney and the Beaches Royal Plantation.

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