Last month, we told you how a new resort is planned for Lovango. The article sparked some questions and concerns. We took those thoughts and brought them to the developers to get some clarification. We wanted to share that information plus some other details with you all today. So let’s get to it!
Ok, so to recap, the proposed resort remains in the planning stages. The prospective owners – Mark Snider, his wife Gwenn and their son Matt – will close on the property next month. Then the permitting process begins. Their plan calls to build a resort and beach club that will be completely off grid. They hope to build 14 home sites and 25 cottages. The Sniders currently own two very eco-conscious resorts in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
One of the most celebrated parts of this announcement was the return of ZoZo’s. The restaurant plans to open on Lovango at the site of the proposed resort in February 2020. The resort’s beach club is planned to open in late 2020 while the actual resort itself is expected to open in 2021.
Ok, so one of the first questions that popped up was with regard to staffing. The resort will employ a minimum of 10 full time, year-round employees. In addition, they will hire 70 to 80 employees who will have year-round employment. These employees will be offered the opportunity to work at Lovango during the winter months and on either Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months. Most will be offered year-round health care and benefits. Some employees will be USVI hires while others will be from the Massachusetts resorts. Mark Snider mentioned that he currently has three USVI residents working full time at his New England resorts. He said they are also working with the University of the Virgin Islands to create an internship program.
Speaking of staffing, where will they live? People familiar with St. John know that we’re in the midst of a pretty major housing crisis. Well the Sniders said they plan to offer staff housing just as they do at their Massachusetts resorts. Employees will be offered staff housing on either St. John or St. Thomas. The USVI residents who opt to work at the New England resorts during the summer will be offered employee housing there as well.
Now let’s chat about the beach club. The club will offer a pool, water sports, dining and services for boaters. They will offer daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal rates with discounts for local residents. They have yet to determine the actual costs for this.
Another cool thing that the Sniders plan to offer – which they currently offer at both of their New England resorts – is an Islander Stay Free program. During certain times of the year, local residents will have the opportunity to stay at the Lovango resort for free. Well not completely free. We will have to pay a cleaning fee, and I am totally ok with that! Here’s what Mark had to say about that:
The Islander Stay Free option is offered at times that work for both islanders and our booking patterns. We are mindful to offer this benefit at a convenient time that works for islanders. It has worked great for both the Vineyard and Nantucket communities.
Ok, now I read numerous comments about the environmental impact this resort could have on Lovango. Here is his response:
We are mindful of the importance of proper planning and environmental concern. We are based now on two islands in New England that place a premium on environmental attention. We are now working with engineers to insure we are proceeding properly.
I also asked Mark to reiterate the steps his New England resorts take to remain environmentally friendly. Here is what he had to say on that:
- We just installed solar panels at our Nantucket Hotel last year.
- We have replaced plastic water bottles at each of our hotels with one higher quality bottle for guests to keep re-using, utilizing our natural aquifer water out of the tap. This has significantly reduced our use of plastics.
- We use biodegradable dining ware for our takeout options.
- We encourage our guests not to bring cars to our islands and provide multi layers of “fun” public transportation. This includes our antique vehicles (1946 fire truck, 1932 Model A buses!) and our own water taxis and van services.
- We encourage bike riding as a fun and environmental way of seeing our islands.
- We use refillable soaps and shampoos to reduce waste.
- We compost our food remains from our Vineyard restaurant.
- Although not specifically environmental, all our guests are asked to voluntarily add $25 to their reservation as a contribution to the Nantucket Hospital or towards the restoration of two historic theaters on Martha’s Vineyard. We raise about $20,000 from each property, each year, to help these non-profit organizations.
Mark also mentioned that there will not be any guest vehicles on the island, mainly just golf carts.
And lastly, the proposed resort was said to be catering only to the ultra wealthy. The low season rates would begin around $350 a night and would jump up to $850 a night during holiday weeks. I asked Mark to comment on this. Here is his response:
The US Virgin Islands are probably the most expensive place to build in the Caribbean- one of the reasons there hasn’t been a new resort in over 30 years. To provide a quality operation, one that local Virgin Islanders will be able to enjoy at a discount, requires us to charge higher rates during the peak season. We primarily cater to families. Yes we expect an affluent crowd at certain peak times, such as Christmas vacation week, but we want to be accessible to a broader group at other times.
(And as a complete side note, I’ve been researching family friendly resorts to take Dalton to for my upcoming birthday, and the Sniders’ Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard resorts have come up on several lists I have come across.)
Many people have questioned why I, personally, am supporting this resort. Honestly, I believe the Sniders in what they plan to create. As I mentioned last month, I visited the Nantucket resort and witnessed their operation firsthand. I believe in their product, and I think this will be a great addition to the islands, especially given the fact that it seems Caneel Bay is not going to reopen anytime soon, if ever. This proposed resort adds jobs with housing for residents. It adds another place for boaters to take guests within the US Virgin Islands. And it offers all of you a new place to vacation at or perhaps dine at. If done right, I think this could be very beneficial to the islands.
Lastly, the Sniders wanted to speak to you all personally. They asked me to print a letter written to all of you. Click here to read it.
Like I said earlier, the resort is still in the planning stages and needs to go through the permitting process. We will continue to keep you updated on its progress.