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Lying leisurely on my stomach as I received a massage, a school of fish glided through the coral beneath me. A glass floor in a spa perched above a lagoon — ah, genius. At a sister resort, swimming fish were visible through my living room coffee table, topped by a removable piece of spotless glass. Again, the ingenuity was nearly as impressive as the gorgeous spectacle of marine life. No matter which InterContinental Hotels & Resorts property I visited, it was as if I had my own private aquarium throughout my stay in French Polynesia.
The secret to the strength of the InterContinental’s portfolio of four properties in French Polynesia is actually quite simple. Find a piece of paradise, build the stuff of bucket list dreams, maintain the facilities, offer great Polynesian dining and entertainment and respect the natural resources. Contributing to the resorts’ special connection to Polynesia, the general managers of the properties have been with the company for a total of 65 years, and the regional president of operations, Philippe Brovelli, has been in his position for 30 years.
“The stability of the management has no equal,” said Pierre Lesage, regional director of sales and marketing for InterContinental Resorts French Polynesia. “They know the destination, the market, the clientele and the staff, and they are highly respected both locally and internationally.”
According to Lesage, the average stay in French Polynesia is generally 10 days: an introductory and final day in Tahiti, followed by four days in Moorea and four days in Bora Bora. The brand’s four properties are located on the Society Islands, providing the convenience of booking with one brand.
The four properties are far from identical though, and knowing their particular strengths will help when qualifying clients. Families will enjoy InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa, which offers a variety of bungalow configurations, a dolphin center and a turtle sanctuary. If enjoying the gorgeous silhouette of Moorea from a sand-bottom infinity pool is what your clients prefer, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort is the obvious choice. But what to do in Bora Bora, where the brand offers not one, but two stunning properties?
The newest addition to the brand’s portfolio, the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, opened in 2006 and has quickly become a sweetheart of top travel lists. It’s no mystery how the resort earned its spot on the Conde Nast Traveler 2013 Gold List: For one, it lies on a virgin beach whose name translates to “two hearts” in Tahitian. A water taxi leaves several times daily from the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana, and the ride between the two resorts is thrilling in itself. At the property, the spectacle continues: Polynesian “warriors” greet VIPs who include destination wedding parties and spa-goers. The rooms are the brand’s most luxurious — 80 villas are overwater, and bedrooms include a glass wall that overlooks the lagoon.
The 13,000-square-foot Deep Ocean Spa is luxuriously sprawled in between the lagoon and the ocean, which is not just for show here. The first thalassotherapy center built in the South Pacific uses ocean water drawn at depths of more than 2,600 feet. Also notable are the spa’s overwater, glass-floored bungalows and its extensive pre- or post-treatment circuit.
Booking the most destination weddings of the four, InterContinental Thalasso recently launched a Facebook page to showcase its excellent romance experience product: the world’s first overwater, glass-floor chapel, a cruise to a private motu to enjoy a four-course gourmet menu by sunset and more.
“If clients are looking for a trendy, modern, upscale boutique resort with a touch of Polynesia, it would be here, where they can listen to lounge music and where the clientele is trendier,” said Lesage.
On the other hand, Lesage finds that the InterContinental Le Moana is the most Polynesian of the resorts. Attracting discreet rather than trendy clients, I too found it more intimate. The general manager, Laurence Levy, started there 20 years ago and personally meets and sends off every guest. The image of Levy — tall, tan and clad in fresh flowers and a long, flowing dress — is one that I will always associate with the property.
The rooms aren’t as modern as those found at InterContinental Thalasso, but I loved the Polynesian materials, such as bamboo, mother of pearl and pandanus. The small network of overwater bungalows extends to a blue-sky-and-ocean-backdrop as well as some specks of white: the property’s four most romantic rooms, marked by hearts.
Simple or genius — InterContinental’s Polynesian properties are hard not to love.