Sandals & others…A lack of respect for your wedding?

It’s saddening that on the most important day of a couple’s life, they are often left with no choice as to who gives them, what amount to, the only tangible memories they get to take away from such a special day.

Hotels on this island, such as Sandals and Almond Bay make it clear on their sites that “All external vendors are prohibited”. So, instead of being allowed to choose who photographs one of the most important days of your life, these hotels enforce a choice upon you. And why? Very simply, they can employ non-professional photographers with, in most cases, little or no experience, pay them a pittance and charge you a premium. Sandals own packages start at $1200US, and with the production line of weddings that they often have, let’s say just 10 weddings in just one of the 3 resorts they currently operate raise $12,000US per day. It’s good business when most of the “photographers” they hire barely earn $50US a day.

Sadly, for the bride and groom, family and friends, the images they receive rarely if ever match up to the images in the brochure, in the ads or the websites.

As a wedding planner, I’ve recommended St. Lucia and it’s hotels for many years, encouraging couples to not only marry here, but to bring their families and friends too. Because of these policies by the hotels, I’ve had many couples choose other islands for their weddings, depriving St. Lucia of valuable occupancy and revenue. At a small wedding I planned recently, we worked out that over 60 St. Lucians directly benefitted from that wedding, quite asides from the hotel and it’s 30 guests.

Many hotels here are struggling, and it’s no wonder when management have the foresight only to see short term greed, rather than long term profit. Worse is the complete moral disregard for the happiness of their own clients. I’ve personally witnessed some hotel wedding co-ordinators “chit-chat” their way through ceremonies, and amateur photographers with poor experience and equipment fail to live up to the promise of the brochure and web-site images.

I myself, and other competent photographers on the island have met more than our fair share of heartbroken clients from some of these hotels.

image by Ray Hardy
image by Ray Hardy

The best advertising this island has is often in the work that photographers of quality provide where couples with great images go home and show so many of their friends and family. The vast majority of my clients come here as a result of seeing my work elsewhere. Social networking sites increase this joy and pride that a couple have in the memories provided of their day, with 100s + seeing those images, and this island. You rarely see clients go home and write detrimental reviews of their “factory” wedding or photography, and the reason I hear the most is this: Because they want to be proud of their expensive holiday and wedding, and feel the pride they had before they came, when the excitement of telling everyone where they were coming and why, was so fulfilling. How can they then go back and admit anything else?

But Sandals have their bases covered there. How many glorious reviews have we all seen on Trip Advisor from delighted clients…all with only contribution to the site? Surely they aren’t writing their own reviews?!! Are middle management asked to contribute to these forums? Surely not?! Clients of mine who complained got upgrades, free footwear etc etc..!!

Now, that same social network will sadly bring disrepute to this island and many of it’s hotels unless a revision of this ridiculous policy is made very soon. For the last couple of years, I have already witnessed too many clients and their loved ones go to other islands instead.

St. Lucia is a small island, and now heavily reliant on the tourist industry for the majority of it’s income. It’s bad enough that hotels like Sandals, Almond Bay and others are owned by companies outside of St. Lucia and therefore the profits raised leave the island. But when those hotels, who in most cases were granted licenses and concessions by a generous government here, then use their power and influence to extract every cent and send it back “home”, it’s very sad, and perhaps not entirely legal? St. Lucia should be thought of as it’s own business, where these prime locations are used for hotels owned by St. Lucian businesses. As it stands, if St. Lucia was a business, the Chairman would have been booted out long ago.

This trend has to stop. Brides should get the choice of who photographs their day, and local vendors such as photographers, hairdressers, florists, taxi drivers, food-suppliers and many others should all be allowed to ply their wares in an island with a responsibility to allow them to fairly earn an income.

St. Lucia, you may be Simply Beautiful…but integrity and a good sense of morals goes a long way too.

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4 Replies to “Sandals & others…A lack of respect for your wedding?”

  1. Ray, we have recently been made aware of your page and the issues with Sandals by clients of ours. We intend to look into the matters highlighted by this and other threads we have researched. We are currently inviting clients to inform us of their particular issues and would invite your clients to contact us too. We have emailed you at KarayMedia, but with no response and you refused to discuss it over the telephone, understandably. Can you supply an email address where we can reach you? Kindest Regards, Richard Bush

  2. Hey Ray!
    We’re so glad you’re making a stand buddy. As you know, we were cheated into believing we could hire your services with no problem.You were the guy who told us the whole truth. After everything we read about you on Trip Advisor – you were OUR MAN! And you didn’t let us down. All those pics in Pigeon were fantastic and our friends who were in Sandals were jealous as hell!! We get everyone we can on there to contact you. You and your pics are amazing and we cant thank you enough!

    Come see us in Philly buddy. Soon!!

  3. Hi Ray, I wanted to say thanks for your help and advice and I’m glad you posted this journal. Time to make a stand buddy. Rick and I have been so upset by the way we were treated by Sandals. Everything you say is so right. We paid thousands of bucks for this and it was like a dream. Then when we arrived, we get nickel and dimed for every last thing. I thank God that we had found you. Meeting you after the wedding was the best part of our day. Yu made us laugh and forget the day we had. Plus we have those beautiful photos you got of us making us look even good! I wish now our wedding had been somewhere else. Maybe I should have listened to you but we plan to come back and try Windjamer or Ti Kaye like you suggested and really want to see you again. My mom sent you a gift, just to say thanks. I’ll get everyone I can to see this and talk to you if it means saving the misery I got. Ray, we love you. Come up and stay soon buddy!

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