Valentines Residences Resort & Marina is an upscale, boutique resort located on the west side of Harbour Island, Bahamas, a tiny spit of land that lies to the northeast of Eleuthera. Both islands are part of the chain’s “Out Islands.” Known for their pristine, natural beauty and mild climate, the Out Islands of the Bahamas are tourist meccas, drawing visitors from all over the world.
Valentines is Harbour Island’s newest luxury resort. Its Vice President and Managing Director is Dean Spychalla, who took over the property in 2012. “Valentines has been here for quite a number of years in various iterations,” he says. “There was a total rebuild in 2004 through 2006. It’s basically a brand-new property. Historically, Valentines has been an integral part of the social fabric of Harbour Island. We’re near the downtown area so it’s about a five to seven minute walk to the shops and the restaurants. We’re about a seven minute walk from the beach, as we are on the harbor side of the island, but we’re centrally located, and there is quite a lot of activity near or about the resort area.”
Of course, a lot of that activity on Harbour Island is water-related. Valentines offers some of the best deep-sea fishing, bone fishing, sport fishing, and big game fishing in the world, drawing pleasure boats and yachts from hundreds of miles away. In fact, Valentines has become known as the Sport Fishing Center of the Bahamas. Record catches of tuna, wahoo, and marlin have been caught and the resort holds prestigious fishing tournaments annually.
In addition, the resort is the ideal location for boat charters and rentals, kayaking, sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, windsurfing, parasailing, and wake boarding; not to mention snorkeling and scuba diving. The Valentines Dive Center is PADI certified and well-equipped to plan a dive outing for new and experienced divers, alike. With coral reefs, grottos, underwater blow holes, high speed drift dives, and walls and wrecks, the local waters offer some of the best diving in the world. The resort maintains custom-made dive boats, and has full scuba equipment and Sea MX10 cameras available for rent.
Valentine’s marina is the largest and most complete marina on Harbour Island, and one of the largest in Eleuthera. That’s why so many yacht owners make the resort their home port of choice. The marina, which is full service with fuel, electric, water, and Wi-Fi, won the 2015 World Travel Award for the Bahamas’ Leading Marina.
Valentine’s is a member of the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM). According to Spychalla, come November, the resort, along with other ABM members, is planning to charge a two percent levy on their dockage fees which will be utilized for several good causes. “We’re going to use it for some promotional and advocacy work, but we’re also going to use it to help ensure that navigational aids in the Bahamas are well-maintained,” he says. “We’re also going to have a scholarship for young persons who are interested in the marina industry.”
Valentines is comprised of 41 condo units. It also has 51 boat slips and two restaurants – the Rooster Tail Bar & Grill and the Boat House Restaurant. Last year, the resort completely refurbished its 80,000 gallon pool, and currently, there is one significant building project underway. “We have an existing coffee shop with an empty space below it,” Spychalla says. “We’re building out that space and we’re adding a 300 square foot deck for the shop. And we’re going to incorporate the space below and put in an upscale gym. It’s going to be an awesome addition. And we’ve also done about $50,000 worth of landscaping in the past 12 months and it’s starting to mature and it looks spectacular.”
All of the resort’s luxury suites are equipped with Wi-Fi and cable television, modern kitchen appliances, and balconies overlooking the pool, gardens, or marina. Lodging options include junior luxury suites with room for up to four guests, one-bedroom luxury suites with room for up to four guests, two-bedroom luxury suites with room for up to six guests, and a three-bedroom penthouse suite with room for up to eight guests.
“Residences are wholly-owned by individuals,” explains Spychalla, “there is no shared ownership. Owners can use their residence personally up to three months a year, and the rest of the time the hotel ensures that the unit is in the rental pool and part of the hotel. So, owners are not allowed to personalize their units – the hotel décor is the same, throughout. Rental revenue is split 50/50.” According to Spychalla, the majority of Valentines’ guests – about 85 percent – come from the United States, and about 40 percent of that number are from Florida.
In order to maximize Valentines already healthy occupancy rate, last year, the resort joined Preferred Residences, a worldwide hospitality membership and exchange program for luxury shared ownership resorts and a partner of Interval International. Spychalla explains the benefits of membership: “It allows our owners to be in an exchange program; they can spend two or three weeks of their three months in another resort in the Interval family and there are 5,000 of them, worldwide. It also brings owners of those properties to the Bahamas to see what we have. So, it gives us exposure that we would not have had, otherwise. We can market our property to 1.8 million members of Interval’s iPrefer Loyalty program. So, for a very small fee, it’s a good way to expose our property.”
Another way in which Spychalla has generated new revenue has been by reconfiguring the typical Caribbean model of closing down a tourist hotel during the summer “slow” season. “This property no longer closes during the slow season, as it has done in the past,” he declares. “When I came, I made the conscious decision we were going to stay open and provide full services to our guests during that period of time.”
Spychalla is adamant about the benefits of year-round tourism, and uses his positions as President of the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board (BOIPB) to try and convince other hotels to stay open, too. “We had a great summer,” he asserts, proving his point. “This past July, my marina was up 27.2 percent, and my rooms division was up 25.8 percent versus July, the prior year. And my rooms division in August this year was up 57 percent versus August, last year. I attribute a lot of that to the marketing efforts that we’re doing – particularly social media. We’re all over the place on social media.”
In addition to its combination of modern amenities coupled with its rustic charm, Spychalla believes that customer service is the key that keeps people coming back to Valentines, time and again. “At the end of the day, we’re here for the guests,” he says. “And there are no excuses. You either sink or swim based on the level of guest service that you can provide to those persons who are coming with very high expectations to enjoy what they believe to be a wonderful vacation. And, if you can’t meet that expectation, you need to revisit your basic operations model. My personal philosophy is ‘No excuses – solutions, only.’”
Valentines Residences Resort and Marina offers its guests authentic island hospitality mixed with old-world charm, powdery pink sand beaches, world-class fishing and diving, and a best-in-class marina, among many other experiences and amenities. Sounds like a pretty good solution.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Valentines Residences Resort & Marina
WHAT: A boutique resort and marina located in the Out Islands, Bahamas
WHERE: Dunmore Town, Harbour Island, Bahamas
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