The decades-old resort company is celebrating the milestone with poolside cocktails straight out of the 1980s and an all-new hospitality school.
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In 1981, Butch Stewart purchased the Bay Roc Hotel near Jamaica's Montego Bay airport. He didn't know much about the property, except that it had a fantastic beach. And from there, he built Sandals Montego Bay, the first all-inclusive couples resort in Jamaica.

At the time, Stewart was told that his resort wouldn't last two months on the island. Forty years later, it is the birthplace of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), which now includes 19 resorts across the Caribbean.

"This year marks an incredible milestone for Sandals Resorts, and it's especially meaningful as we take this moment to honor what my father created and carry on his revered legacy across the Caribbean," SRI Executive Chairman — and Butch Stewart's son — Adam Stewart said in a statement. "I'm proud to celebrate this milestone for our company alongside our Sandals family as we look to the next 40 years of inspired Caribbean vision and innovation."

In honor of its 40th anniversary, Sandals is planning a celebration honoring its founder's legacy through local initiatives and nostalgic events.

Many of the events are planned around the pool. In 1981, Sandals Montego Bay became the first to bring swim-up bars to Caribbean resort culture (the concept was invented in Las Vegas in the late 50s).

Honoring what is probably the best setting to enjoy a cocktail to date, guests can order from either the 1981 or 2021 cocktail menus at the pool, with all-new snack and drink options. Live poolside DJs will help guests party like it's 1981. And, starting November, guests will be able to pick up nostalgic merch at every Beach House resort shop.

Sandals South Coast
Credit: Courtesy of Sandals Resort

In partnership with the Sandals Foundation, SRI is identifying 40 projects throughout the Caribbean and will donate time and resources. The projects will be across five main categories — supporting local farmers, hospitality training & certification, preserving natural resources, harnessing unique artisan crafts, and community outreach. Sandals employees and guests will be able to join the efforts and help out on everything from conservation efforts to working with local artisans.

Sandals South Coast - All New Dutch Village
Credit: Courtesy of Sandals Resort

The resort company announced the construction of the Gordon "Butch" Stewart International School of Hospitality and Tourism at The University of the West Indies, developed in conjunction with Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. The new school will offer both undergraduate and graduate courses from a campus in Montego Bay, with a special focus on real-world experience.

It will complement the Sandals Corporate University, which was established to give Sandals employees in the Caribbean the chance to improve their skills and earn undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

And, to top off the celebrations, Sandals is also launching a podcast for its birthday. Fans can stay up-to-date about everything in the resort from the new "Sandals PalmCast."

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.