Sandals Grande under siege?

Jet ski operators solicit clients from the Sandals Grande Hotel on the Pigeon Island Causeway.

A barrage of complaints of harassment of guests on the beach front of Sandals Grande St Lucian Spa and Beach Resort on the Pigeon Island causeway is forcing management to explore ways of tightening security at the beach.

Officials at the resort said that while they have quietly sought to manage the problem for an extended period, in recent times there have been increasing threats by guests not to return to the property, while others have demanded refunds should the perennial problem not be brought under control.

“We cannot not understand why we pay to stay at a five Star resort, which appears to have security and we constantly have to put up with the harassment from guys some of whom sometimes get annoyed when we decline to buy their stuff on the beach,” one couple wrote on Trip Advisor, one of the world’s leading travel advisory websites, dedicated to allowing guests to discuss their experiences at various resorts.   Trip advisor is treated as the Gospel when it comes to ordinary customers reviewing their experiences to various destinations and resorts.

Another couple Maria and Adam Spates wrote, “Something needs to be done about all of the guys who are constantly trying to get you to buy their stuff on the beach! It really made everyday annoying on the beach. They also beg the guests to pass them drinks since they are free. It puts the guests in a tough position. Sorry for the complaints, but hopefully our input will help.”

Yet another complaint was focused on Sandals Grande which appears to be the hub of activity for drug peddlers, horse back riders, jet-ski operators, and vendors of all sorts.

“While at the beach a local man came up to us and started making grass birds and fish. Knowing that it was how he made his living we gave him five dollars for two of his items. The next day he came up to us and started doing the same thing to which we told him that we had already purchased two of his items the day before. He continued to make the grass items and having handed them to us wanted money. We told him we did not have any but he kept going on that he made us different ones this time even though we told him to stop. He seemed to us to be very angry that we would not give him any more money,” wrote Andrew Nimmer.

Another guests Celeste Zakkai wrote, “This did not feel like a five start resort at all. I expect that when I am on a five star resort with security and police that I should not be bugged by a local selling things and pressuring us to support them. The guy offering us drugs really pissed me off.”

Then there was this extra-ordinary story from a couple who seemed so upset that they penned their complaint in capitals.

“THE MAIN THING THAT LEFT A VERY FOUL TASTE WITH US IS THAT ON OUR SECOND DAY ON THE RESORT WE WITNESSED ONE OF THE SECURITY GUARDS BEING MOCKED BY ONE OF THE LOCAL TOUR GUIDES WHO SELLS THE HORSE TOURS. THE GUIDE APPROACHED THE SECURITY GUARD AND BEGAN MOCKING HIM FOR BEING A HOMOSEXUAL. HE TAUNTED HIM REPEATEDLY AND USED VERY FOUL LANGUAGE WHICH I WISH NOT TO REPEAT. THEN WHILE TAUNTING HIM HE QUESTIONED THE SECURITY GUARD ABOUT WHETHER HIS PENIS WORKED AND THEN PROCEEDED TO REMOVE HIS OWN PENIS FROM HIS PANTS TO SHOW THE SECURITY GUARD. THE GUIDE DID ALL THIS WHILE MY WIFE WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE IN THE GENERAL AREA. SHE DID NOT IMMEDIATELY TELL ME BECAUSE SHE DID NOT WANT ME TO OVERREACT. WHEN SHE FINALLY TOLD ME I TOLD YOUR SANDALS STAFF.”

Another comment from an apparently uninformed guest Zachary Heide of Newmarket Ontario simply stated that, “the unfortunate fact that the front of the beach is not Sandals owned made for a surprising level of harassment from beach vendors, despite politely declining their services.”

He is described as “uninformed” because little did Mr. Heide know that the Solicitor General of St.Lucia had already ruled that the beach front is in fact the property of Sandals.  This has also been borne out in a tribunal hearing on the status of two pillars erected by Sandals on the beach front, and in a legal assessment of the ownership of the property undertaken by the law firm of McNamara and company, on behalf of the Sandals Group of Companies.

What the Canadian was in fact implying in his missive on Trip Adviser was that if Sandals are owners of the beachfront then they ought to be taking measures within the law, to ensure that the harassment of their guests, who pay quite a tidy sum to come to St.Lucia, is minimized.

Manager of Sandals Grande Winston Anderson said that harassment of guests has been a debilitating one for the company over the years, which has now deteriorated despite having beefed up security on the beachfront.

“Rather than ensuring that they are kept away from the beachfront, we have attempted various strategies to work with some of those seeking to ply their trade on the beach, but this has only resulted in increasing complaints from the guests as it is difficult to discern exactly what some of these traders are offering for sale.

“On occasions when we have found it necessary to take action, myself and my security team are constantly issued with threats some of which we ought to be taking seriously, so evidently we have been fighting a losing battle. Therefore at this juncture we think its time to consider taking our efforts to secure the beach and protect our guests, to another level,” Anderson said, adding, “it’s either we do that and remain in business, or give up the beach and our property to those who are mindlessly seeking to undermine the tourism industry which remain the means by which thousands of St.Lucians make a livelihood.”

“So any action we take to secure our premises and ensure the safety of our guests must be seen in that light,” the company official said.

The matter of security the beach and minimizing incidents of harassment particularly at the Grande is currently being discussed at the highest level within the Sandals group, having been considered serious enough to gain the attention of the Chairman of the group Gordon “Butch” Stewart.

So far there is no have been no word as to how the Management of the Hotel will deal with the problem, but there has been talk of securing the beach above the high water mark (the seashore) which has been ruled in law as the point from which Sandals can in fact draw a line of ownership in the sand.

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