Celebrity's Michael Bayley

By Johanna Jainchill
Michael BayleyMichael Bayley was named Celebrity Cruises' CEO last week, replacing Dan Hanrahan, who left the company last month after seven years at its helm. In his first interview as president, Bayley talked with Destinations Editor Johanna Jainchill about his 30 years with the company, filling Hanrahan's shoes and what to do about Europe.

Q: You recently spent four years as executive vice president of international operations for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Celebrity's parent company. Does your appointment indicate that Celebrity will be focused on increasing its international source markets?

The fact that I've got significant international experience is certainly very complementary, because the Celebrity ships operate [around the world]. But there is no desire to move away from the current sourcing and current demographics. ... Whether it's an affluent person from Denver, L.A., Miami, Shanghai or Sydney, it's less about sourcing more people from a certain place and more about having a brand that attracts customers that are willing and able to pay the price the brand deserves.

Q: Hanrahan was very involved and front-facing with travel agents. Do you plan on playing a similar role?

Absolutely. One of the first phone calls I had was with Dondra [Ritzenthaler, Celebrity's senior vice president of sales], who called to set up visits to meet with our trade partners to start that dialogue. One of my key missions is quickly developing relationships with our trade and travel partners and making sure I understand how they view us.

Q: You've been with the company for 30 years. How does that experience prepare you for this position?

I'm probably quite unique in that I've worked in every area of the cruise company. I spent a decade working onboard the ships in various positions, ultimately as a hotel director. I worked in [human resources], crewing, IT projects, sales and marketing, revenue management. ... I have a fairly broad and comprehensive understanding of the business we're in. And I have an incredible passion for the industry. I love the cruise business, and I feel like it flows through me. I enjoy immensely the delivery of the experience to our customers.

Q: RCCL's last earnings report indicated major problems in Europe, where Celebrity has a big presence. Are you thinking about positioning Celebrity's ships away from Europe?

Europe is a huge summer market. It's challenging if you're reliant on European markets for sourcing your products or your brands. Europe as a destination is attractive. I think what we may see in the next couple years is some attractive pricing in terms of air travel and hotels, so Europe as a destination for the American market may be quite attractive. I need to take a good look at the dynamics of all of that. Europe as source market is struggling quite a lot at the moment, but everything is cyclical. I think Europe will bounce back. The question, of course, is how long will it take.

Q: What's the first thing you plan to do as CEO?

I'm going to talk and listen to a lot of people. I'm going to listen to our travel partners. I'm going to listen to the management team running the brand today. I'm going to listen to employees on the ships and shoreside to get their perspective and see how they see things. That's my key focus: understanding and getting everybody's perspective and developing a go-forward plan.

Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw. 
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