Travel agents mourn colleagues who died at Sandals Emerald Bay: Travel Weekly

Travel advisors who knew Robbie and Mike Phillips, two of the three Americans who died of still-unknown causes at Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Resort & Spa in Exuma, Bahamas, on May 6, were stunned and saddened upon learning of their deaths.

Many condolences have been posted by colleagues on the private Facebook group Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean, run by Kelly Fontenelle.  

Among the messages posted, Jennifer Borgh of Borghinvilla Wedding Venue in Jamaica wrote that she had met the couple several times on Sandals fams and at the Star Awards. “Condolences to the Phillips’ family and to those who were their friends and colleagues,” she wrote.

Tracee Williams, a Sandals Weddingmoon and Certified Sandals specialist at Destinations in Fayetteville, Ark., reminded the group to remember the couples’ children in their prayers. “For them, this goes on forever. Let us pray for divine guidance for them and for peace in moving forward from this tragedy.”

Ellen Downey, owner of Traveldreams4u2 in Versailles, Ky., had met the Phillips at several Sandals events. “I am so sad to read this news. Prayers for their family and the Sandals family.”

Katie Ehlers, owner of Lux Travel Katie in Port Jefferson, N.Y, described Robbie as “such a kind leader within Sandals. Prayers for the family in such a tragic situation.”

The Phillips owned Royal Travel in Maryville, Tenn., for more than 20 years and had recommended and sent clients to Sandals resorts for years. Robbie, also known as “The Sand Lady,” posted a joyful review about the Sandals Emerald Bay on Facebook the day before her death.

In 2019, Sandals honored Robbie with the Outstanding Sales Achievement award for destination weddings and was presented the Chairman’s Award, given each year to one agent in the U.S. who consistently embodies and represents the Sandals brand.

The late Sandals founder Butch Stewart said at the time, “We value the hard work of travel agents like Robbie, and we commend them as they are essential in bringing Sandals and Beaches vacation experiences to life for their clients.”

On her The Sand Lady travel blog, Robbie told stories of clients’ reactions to their first visit to a Sandals resort. One couple was hooked after their first trip. “They visited two more Sandals properties within a year and their fourth visit was a return to Sandals South Coast (then Whitehouse).”

Her blog included photos and detailed descriptions of rooms, restaurants, menus, activities and wedding venues at each resort. One poignant story with many photos illustrated a visit to Beaches Turks and Caicos with several of their grandchildren.

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