Harbour island’s newest luxury resort
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.
Harbour Island was first settled by the British over 300 years ago. Clean, blue waters surround the island and a pink sand beach graces its eastern coast. The island, itself, is drenched in hibiscus, palm, bougainvillea, jasmine, and other lush, tropical flowers and plants. Dunmore Town, the island’s only city, once served as the first capital of the Bahamas. It was named after John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore, who served as governor from 1786 to 1798. The town is a unique blend of New England architecture and Caribbean color.
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. 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.
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.
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. All of its 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, the resort recently 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, as we still have some developer units available for sale. Somebody on an exchange may be a condo owner from Aspen who comes and stays here and says ‘I like this – I’ll buy one of the remaining units.’ 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. And we’ve really grown the revenue. For instance, in the past, we may have closed in August. Well, from August of last year to August of this year, we increased revenue by 38 percent. The same thing is happening in the month of September,” he adds.
Another advantage of remaining open, according to Spychalla, is that it encourages airlines to institute regular flights to the region. “Because we’re not closing, we’re able to get some additional air lift to the island from Atlanta,” he says. “So two flights a week are going to be coming from Atlanta starting in December and the airlines have the expectation that there will be passengers year round. Germany wants to send an airline to the Bahamas once or twice a week, year round. That cannot work if the Out Islands are going to close for three months every year.”
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. “This business of closing for six or eight or ten weeks because it’s slow, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we stay open, eventually people are going to understand that we are open year round, and we’ll benefit accordingly,” he maintains.
Currently, Valentines has no major refurbishing plans on the books. “The property is built out,” Spychalla reports. “There is the opportunity to build a fifth villa, with eight to ten more units, and we do have approval from the government to do that. But right now that’s not something that we want to do; it might be something that we would consider in the future. What I’m trying to do here now, is just upgrade the landscaping and the infrastructure of the property – we just had the pool completely refurbished. It’s a large pool – 80,000 gallons. It’s just beautiful and it’s the focal point of the resort.”
In addition to its combination of modern amenities coupled with its rustic charm, Spychalla asserts 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, a best-in-class marina, and oceanfront cocktails and dining, among many other experiences and amenities. Sounds like a pretty good solution. Don’t you agree?
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
WaterMakers Inc. – www.watermakers.com
Tavares & Higgs Insurance Agents & Brokers Ltd. – www.nagico.com/index.php/home-thebahamas/item/1321-bahamas-agents
Global Services Bahamas – www.kee-chanona.com