Q&A with Richard H. Bailey, president and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, operator of the luxury cruise vessels
Q&A with Richard H. Bailey, president and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, operator of the luxury cruise vesselsm/s Paul Gauguin and m/v Tere Moana
Where are you from originally and how did you end up in French Polynesia?
I was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, where my father was a wildcatter in the oil business. One year he hit a well and we all vacationed in Tahiti for six months. After college I went back, fell in love with a lovely girl, and the place she lived as well. We’ve been here ever since.
What was your background that lead you into the travel industry?
After college at Stanford I studied business and took an MBA at Harvard. I worked for the Tahiti Tourism Office from 1987 to 1989 then went to work for Pacific Beachcomber. In 1998 I bought the company and began building the hotel business. Later we got into the cruise business also. We have become the country’s largest luxury hotel and cruise operator. Pacific Beachcomber operates the 332-guest m/s Paul Gauguin luxury cruise vessel with voyages in Tahiti, French Polynesia, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia; the 88-guest m/v Tere Moana with voyages in Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America; and seven award-winning hotels, including a new resort opening July 1, 2014, The Brando, on the eponymous actor’s island, Tetiaroa.
The m/s Paul Gauguin sails in French Polynesia predominately. What makes the ship special?
The m/s Paul Gauguin is the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific. We infuse the welcoming, hospitable spirit of French Polynesia in every sailing and offer a number of South Seas exclusives. Our troupe of “Gauguines” and “Gauguins”—local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers, and storytellers—are a highlight for many guests along with the local musicians and dancers who perform on board. We offer complimentary and exclusive access to Motu Mahana, a private islet where guests can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, Polynesian activities, a full-service bar, a floating lagoon bar, and a delicious barbecue, along with complimentary access to our private beach on a motu in Bora Bora for guests to enjoy for the day. Our enrichment program features a series of expert lecturers on topics ranging from history of the South Pacific to conservation, art, marine life, the wonders of coral reefs, and much more. We offer all-inclusive value with spacious oceanview suites and staterooms with nearly 70 percent of them featuring private balconies; gourmet dining in all venues; complimentary beverages including select wines and spirits, soft drinks, bottled water and hot beverages served throughout the ship; an in-cabin refrigerator replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water; shipboard entertainment; and all onboard gratuities included. In select ports, our watersports marina is available to launch a kayak, windsurf, or paddle board from, and we are the only luxury ship in French Polynesia to offer a PADI certification scuba diving program.
What are the most popular itineraries on the m/s Paul Gauguin?
The most popular are the seven-night Tahiti & the Society Islands, 10-night Society Islands & Tuamotus, 11-night Cook Islands & Society Islands, and 14-night Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands itineraries.
Last year you launched a new ship, the m/v Tere Moana, can you tell us about that ship and its itineraries?
The m/v Tere Moana sails Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014 and 2015. The Moana is perfect for those who are looking for a luxurious experience visiting enchanting locales. Since the ship is intimate in size, with only 88 guests and a staff of 62, it is more like yachting with friends. We offer all-inclusive value on this ship as well, with ocean-view staterooms including eight with balconies; gourmet dining in all venues; spacious outdoor decks with a pool, whirlpool and Balinese sun beds; complimentary beverages including select wines and spirits, soft drinks, bottled water and hot beverages served throughout the ship; an in-cabin refrigerator replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water; shipboard entertainment; and all onboard gratuities included.
You have some new itineraries for 2014 and 2015, can you highlight those?
Paul Gauguin Cruises has an exciting 2014 coming up as we continue to expand our cruise offerings. Our new itineraries include 11- and 12-night Fiji & Australia voyages and two 14-night Australia & Southeast Asia voyages on The Gauguin. New itineraries on The Moana include a seven-night Roundtrip Puerto Caldera, a seven-night Roundtrip Rome, and a seven-night Nice to Rome. For 2015, we are offering a new 10-night Roundtrip Fiji voyage on The Gauguin and a seven-night Roundtrip Venice itinerary on The Moana.
You are thought of as a pioneer in environmental protection and sustainability. Can you share some of the organizations/projects you have been involved in?
Sustainable development and practices are part of our DNA at Pacific Beachcomber. I am a founding member of the Tetiaora Society, a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to education, conservation and research relevant to the fragile marine eco-systems found in the islands. I am also co-founder of Te Mana O Te Moana, a Tahiti-based nonprofit organization devoted to the protection of marine wildlife, especially the green sea turtle. Finally, I am a founding member of the Sustainable Travel Leadership Network, part of Sustainable Travel International, a think-tank shaping tomorrow’s tourism industry in various areas and promoting sustainable practices. All of our resorts are EarthCheck certified, an internationally recognized enviromental management program designed for tourism. For its environmental efforts, The Brando has already received the HEC Paris & 1.618 Sustainable Luxury Award which rewards a luxury brand for its commitment and innovation toward sustainable development, along with silver and bronze SEP Turtle Awards for encouraging responsible waste management.