Sandals honors top-producing partners at Ultra Awards


PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos -- Sandals and Beaches Resorts rewarded its top travel industry partners from North America and the U.K. at the 10th annual Ultra Awards here at Beaches Turks & Caicos.

A black-tie awards banquet topped off a weekend of golf and other activities.

The event was cosponsored by Travel Weekly and Travel Weekly UK.

"We now have the distinction of bringing more people to the Caribbean than any other organization, more than any other resort and even [more than] the airlines," said Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman of Sandals and Beaches Resorts. "And we thank our partners for helping us achieve that distinction."

While Stewart applauded the efforts of the top-producing operators and wholesalers and thanked them for their support, Bob Sullivan, publisher of Travel Weekly, in turn lauded the resort company for its efforts.

"Considering the times we're in and the times we've all faced, there's no better partner than Sandals and Butch Stewart," Sullivan said, adding that the products Sandals and Beaches offer make it easy to stimulate the public to travel.

In addition to the performance awards, Stewart handed out three Sandals Hall of Fame Awards, an honor established in 1998 to recognize companies or individuals who have made a significant contribution to Caribbean tourism.

Past winners include the late Fred Kassner of Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Peter Dolora of American Airlines, Sue Biggs of Kuoni Travel, Gil Haroche of Liberty Travel and William La Macchia Sr. of the Mark Travel Corp.

This year, the Sandals Hall of Fame awards were given to Robert "Daddy" Stone, Merrick Fray and Jim Proctor.

Stone has the distinction of being the Sandals chain's first employee. He joined the company as maitre'd and now serves as director of services at Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica, where he oversees the training of all service professionals.

Fray joined Sandals in 1981 shortly after Stewart bought his first two resorts in Jamaica. He began his Sandals career in hotel operations and now is managing director of Sandals Resorts International.

Proctor, vice president of product development for Air Canada Vacations, has been working with Stewart and the Sandals organization for the past 22 years in various roles with the airline.

This year's awards ceremony saw some newcomers in the winners' circle, including Pleasant Holidays -- the wholesaler captured Top Yield Performance for Beaches Negril.

Tim Irwin, president of Pleasant Holidays -- which launched its Caribbean product line earlier this year -- thanked Stewart for the award and for having confidence in the company.

"It doesn't seem like only six or eight months since we entered the Caribbean market," Irwin said. "Your support makes the sale much easier."

The Ultra Performance Awards are based on Sandals Resorts' sales figures from Aug. 1, 2002, to July 31, 2003.

Sales categories include Top Yield Performance (sales volume divided by room nights), Top Growth Production, Top Suite Seller, Top Group Producer, Top-producing Tour Operator, Top-producing Wholesaler and World's Top Producers.

Operators and wholesalers contracted with Sandals are eligible for the awards.

The winners in the performance categories were:

• World's No. 1 Producer -- Gogo Worldwide Vacations. This was the 10th consecutive year that Gogo captured this award, prompting Sandals to honor the wholesaler with the Decade Award, symbolizing 10 years of "outstanding performance, dedication and an unwavering commitment to the Sandals and Beaches Resorts family."

Meanwhile, taking home World's No. 2 and World's No. 3 Producer awards were Travel Impressions and Air Jamaica Vacations, respectively.

• Top-producing Tour Operator, U.S. -- The Mark Travel Corp. MLT Vacations placed second and Apple Vacations third.

• Top-producing Tour Operator, U.K. -- Virgin Holidays. Second place went to Kuoni Travel, followed by Thomas Cook Holidays.

• Top-producing Tour Operator, Canada -- Air Canada Vacations. Second place went to North American Leisure Group, and Signature Vacations placed third.

• Top-producing Wholesaler -- Gogo Worldwide Vacations. Travel Impressions and Air Jamaica Vacations finished second and third, respectively.

• Top Group Producer, U.S. -- Maritz Travel Co.

• Top Group Producer, Canada -- Air Canada Vacations.

• Top Production Growth, U.S. -- Expedia.

• Top Production Growth, U.K. -- Thomson Worldwide.

• Best Continental European Tour Operator -- HotelPlan Italy.

• Best Stand-alone Brochure, U.K. -- Tradewinds.

To contact reporter Kimberly Scholz, send e-mail to [email protected].

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