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Sandals sees 20% drop-off in bookings

Sandals is beginning to feel the impact of the economic downturn, having seen a 20% year-on-year decrease in bookings in the last five weeks.

Chief executive Adam Stewart said the company was facing “challenging” times and had been badly affected by the high price of oil.

The new Beaches Turks and Caicos property will be opening as planned in January, but some developments will be put on hold. The company wil be offering discounts and special offers to help boost business.

Stewart said: “We believe in the product and everyone will be working twice as hard. Some 40% of our customers are regulars and we’re relying on them more than ever.”

Stewart said the wedding market remained buoyant and Sandals is currently working on over-water suites for the Grande St Lucian Greek Village in St Lucia. “The bridal market is huge for us and it hasn’t skipped a beat, because people will always get married.”

Stewart attended World Travel Market this week to launch the Sandals Foundation, an initiative to help improve people’s lives and the environment in communities surrounding Sandals properties.

Sandals already donates $11 million each year to local communities near its resorts. Stewart hopes that, with the help of tour operators, destinations and staff fundraising activities, this will increase to $30 million.

Existing initiatives include bringing doctors, dentists and opticians to Jamaica from the US to provide treatment and this is being rolled out to St Lucia. Stewart also hopes to invite UK professionals to join the scheme.

* More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008

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