Sandals Resorts is “absolutely not perfect” in terms of responsible tourism but fully embraces its environmental responsibilities, boss Adam Stewart told WTM delegates.

Speaking on World Responsible Tourism Day, the Sandals’ chief executive admitted some of its resorts were far from environmentally responsible.

“We have some rooms that are 30ft from the ocean. Is that wrong? Of course it’s wrong. Now you cannot build closer than 150 ft from the ocean in Jamaica,” he said.

Stewart – who founded independent non-profit organisation Sandals Foundation to help local communities – said environmental issues were not on the agenda when many of the resort’s hotels were built.

“I don’t ever remember in the 1980s hearing about environmental bodies. It’s like smoking – you didn’t know how much damage you were doing.”

Stewart, whose father Butch founded the Caribbean resort company 30 years ago, said there was no doubt it made good business sense to help the environment.

But he denied this would necessarily mean Sandals building smaller resorts or moving away from its core business.

“You are in business to do business. The smaller the hotel, the harder it is to make any profit out of it. Our model is working for us.

“As the world continues to grow, the 250-room hotel will have to become the 300-room hotel. You have to remain profitable and if it means you have to have an extra 30 rooms you have to do it.”

However, resorts could still be responsible by buying product locally or working with the local community as well as by educating its workforce and customers. “You are seeing more people who work in the organisation starting to recognise the need to take environmental awareness seriously.”

Increasingly customers were leaving all-inclusive resorts to go on excursions locally, he added. “Some 30% of customers are now doing excursions. The old-school philosophy of staying in the compound – those days are gone.”