Jamaican Entrepreneur Constructed Chain of Caribbean Resorts

If he’d known about the hotel business, Butch Stewart said, he might never have bought the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

At the time of its purchase in 1981, the waterfront hotel was dilapidated and stood at the end of an airport runway. The roar of the jet engines often interrupted the guests’ tropical idylls.

Mr Stewart renovated the building, invested in king beds, and introduced a couples-only policy that included room, food and tips in a single rate. His goal was to create a more luxurious version of Club Med. Airport noise became part of the package: every time a jet took off, guests were asked to wave their arms and kiss their partners. After 18 months of losses, the hotel began to thrive.

Mr. Stewart, who died of cancer on January 4th at the age of 79, started a chain of Caribbean resorts under brands like sandals and beaches. Amenities include butlers and swim-up bars in the pools.

The family business empire now run by one of his sons, Adam Stewart, includes 23 resorts in eight countries as well as the Jamaica Observer newspaper, radio stations, car dealerships, and home appliance and computer dealerships. These family businesses employ around 15,000 people in total.