Adam Stewart, a native Jamaican, is proud of his island roots. Now, the dynamic 28 year-old CEO of Sandals Resorts International can be equally proud of Island Routes – his newest brainchild. Launched recently in Jamaica, the company could well change the way Caribbean tourism works.
“When you’re doing something for the right reasons,” says Stewart, “you know it’s going to be a success.” A luxury tour provider, Island Routes has designed quality standards that will reassure consumers by linking them with the top operators offering the best excursions.
It’s a tall order.
With hundreds of operators on every major island in the Caribbean, sorting the tourism wheat from the chaff has been something many of us have found daunting. Island Routes’ goal is enable tourists to book with confidence.
Island Routes offers Caribbean visitors the best available tours
Using a rigorous qualification process, Island Routes has chosen ten companies to offer tours in each of Jamaica’s major resort areas. The tours, divided into different style groupings such as ‘family routes’ and ‘romantic routes’ for example, include activities ranging from horseback riding, to river tubing, zip-lining, deep sea fishing, ATV riding, rafting, and more. Private individualized tours can also be booked through the ‘limited edition routes’ stream.
Three major selection criteria were used: safety, product content and delivery, and customer experience. The safety standards, which included guest-to-guide ratio, equipment checklists, safety briefings and more, were demanding and a 95 percent customer satisfaction rating was required. To ensure that those stringent quality standards are maintained, both a customer satisfaction survey system and a secret shopper program are in place.
Not all applicants qualified, but according to Dominique Peterkin, General Manager for Island Routes, that initial disappointment is proving to be an incentive for many tour operators.
“Tour companies that did not make the initial offering list have the opportunity to re-present their tours – but they need to conform to our standards. Once they are certified, we stand behind their products. The door is always open – they just need to adjust and grow to our standards.”
Island Routes tours can be booked through the newly revamped touch-screen dvd systems at tour desks at Sandals resorts in Jamaica and soon in St. Lucia, Antigua and the Bahamas. The tours are also available through tour operators and travel agents, independent of Sandals, and can be booked directly through www.islandroutes.com.
The system is proving popular with tour operators. Says Tony Ebanks, Director of Operations for Island Routes Adventure Tours, “Our contracted partners love the complete packaging of their product. Our website has opened doors to anyone who wants to shop online.”
Island Routes to be offered in most Caribbean destinations
Growth presents challenges. Ebanks, Peterkin, and Stewart are Jamaican and knew most of the local tour operators, but don’t have the same connections on other islands.
Says Peterkin, “When we go to other islands, we call upon our countrymen there. The programs in St. Lucia and Antigua have managers who are from those islands, so they’ve been our guides as we looked for great products that would meet our operational requirements. We get the inside track from our island specialists then it’s a matter of carrying the brand there, and letting them bring out the best in their islands.”
Island Routes will be in place in every Caribbean destination where Sandals hotels operate within a year, but even greater expansion is anticipated.
Says Peterkin, “Five years from now, we hope Island Routes will be a household name, in the industry and for the mainstream consumer. We dream big, but we feel that our company will help create memories that will last a lifetime and bring people back to the Caribbean again and again. Whether the choice is a family route, a romantic route, or a community route, our intention is to enhance the vacation experience and make an impact.”
While Island Routes is a business endeavor, the concept was born of something more personal. Stewart, Peterkin and Ebanks all share a passion for their Caribbean home and a desire to showcase it.
Says Ebanks of the Jamaican roll-out, “This is my island, this is my home – it is my absolute pleasure to show the best we have.”
Peterkin agrees, “Being born and bred Caribbean, finding the things that each island has to offer has been an amazing journey. It has given me the chance to reconnect with my islands. Each is so unique that visiting the Caribbean can happen over and over again, and every new experience will be amazing and special.”
Looking to plan a trip to the Caribbean? Check out tripatlas.com/new’s Trip Builder where you can chat online with travel agents who can help you plan your trip.
Liz Fleming is an award-winning Canadian travel journalist who specializes in adventure, health and wellness and learning travel. For more from Liz, go to: Liz Fleming’s Travel Tales