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Interview: Baillie Lodges Founders

We spoke with Baillie Lodges Founders, James and Hayley Baillie about who they are, the inspiration behind Longitude 131 in Uluru and the ways they work with local communities and nurture and wildlife at Baillie Lodges destinations.

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“Please introduce yourselves.”

"We are James and Hayley Baillie, together we founded Baillie Lodges as a fairly ideal life and business partnership. We’d both come from backgrounds working in travel and tourism and shared some common essential ideals about aesthetics and the concept of luxury lodging in extraordinary places."

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“Baillie Lodges was founded in 2013, what are some of the biggest achievements to date?”

"It’s hard to go past Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island as our greatest and most personally treasured achievement. It was the Baillie Lodges flagship property, we’d planned it from the ground up and saw it win some of the world’s most highly regarded awards over its ten year life. Tragically Southern Ocean Lodge was razed in the bushfires of last summer. We’re excited to be planning its rebuild with the property’s original architect, Max Pritchard."

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“Longitude 131 in Uluru is undoubtably one of the most special and unique locations to stay in Australia, can you please share the inspiration behind this luxury camp and how it came to fruition?”

"Longitude 131 was in fact the creation of esteemed architect Philip Cox. The original 15-tent glamping outpost was recognised around the globe for its other-worldly guest tents, styled as African safari tents with flowing canopies and views direct to Uluru. In 2013, Baillie Lodges had the opportunity to take over the management of the iconic property and so we got to work with architect Max Pritchard who’d designed Southern Ocean Lodge to create an upgrade that retained the essence of the property whilst making some improvements to the guest experience of the incredible Red Centre destination. Max was quick to suggest adding open air verandahs to the tents, offering guests an immersion in the sights and sounds of the outback. Today, the daybed, personal “campfire” and daybed with luxury swag for looking up to a glittering canopy of stars by night are all highlights of a guest stay at Longitude 131."

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“How do you decide on the locations for Baillie Lodges?”

"It’s a little bit serendipitous! I guess the unspoken rule is that the destination is extraordinary in natural assets, remote and so thereby relatively exclusive, and also that the destination has a personal relevance to Hayley and me. It might be a favourite place for family holidays – as was the case with Lord Howe Island – or a place that we feel will offer visitors a chance to really experience something memorable, to meet new people, experience new cultures, learn new things and taste locally-produced food and drinks. It’s something outside the box – perhaps even a little bit magical."

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“Community and the environment are key and essential layers to the success and long term growth of Baillie Lodges, what are some of the ways you work with local communities and nurture the land and wildlife?”

"The chance to meet the locals and learn about a region’s landscape, its resident wildlife and the ecology in which it thrives are all essential to creating a genuine sense of the place, and its this that creates a resonating, memorable, standout experience for our guests. In each lodge location we have set about working with the local food and wine producers, the artists and artisan designers and even the spa care products are produced using local beauty botanicals and delivering the natural textures and scents of the destination. In this way the lodges are an important part of the community, working in with small producers and regional economies for the benefit of all. At Longitude 131 we have fostered a very special, mutually beneficial set of partnerships with the Aboriginal arts communities in the Red Centre and extending to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY) Lands where we purchase local artworks which directly benefit the artists and their communities."

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“2020 has been a challenging year for all, what would you say have been some key learnings for you and the travel/lifestyle industry?”

"Both our operating lodges – Capella Lodge and Longitude 131 - closed for the hardest part of the pandemic, so we are now making up for lost time in 2020. Looking forward, we hope people will seek travel experiences that really highlight Australia’s incredible natural assets, its communities and its culture. Traveling with close family and friends will become more important than ever, and offering a chance to share really memorable, meaningful experiences will be key. Those experiences may be more around shared dining with local ingredients on the menu, shared experiences where learning and personal connections are a by-product and – moving forward – experiences where guests can make a positive contribution to a destination. Where there’s a chance to buy local, support local artists or small-scale food producers with purchases, or join locally-operated tours and take part citizen science activities like monitoring corals – these are the types of experiences that add real meaning to a holiday and that in turn deliver a very positive connection to the place."

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“What is next for Baillie Lodges?”

"In partnership with KSL Capital Partners we have just announced our first foray into the global market, with Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge on Vancouver Island coming under the Baillie Lodges banner. The property is already highly acclaimed around the world, with 25 luxury canvas tents opening on to Clayoquot Sound and the chance for guests to encounter incredible wildlife – from black bears and humpback whales to sealions, sea otters and the magnificent blue heron. There are guided personal adventures including hiking, horse-riding, boating biking and helis – and we can’t wait to be a apart of this very special wilderness destination when the season opens in May next year."

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Words by :

James & Hayley Baillie

Photography by :

Emily Yates & Lisa Smith