There was once a time when the world’s wealthy paid attention to the cost of their trips, but with stock markets rising over the last nine years, making the rich even richer, many are now apparently willing to spend whatever it takes to get a once-in-lifetime vacation.
“They used to be price-sensitive before, but now they want an experience,” says Steve Edo, CEO and founder of Montreal-based Pure Entertainment Group, a luxury concierge company. “Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.”
While many still like sitting beachside at a luxury resort, others want to combine their rest and relaxation with one-of-a-kind experiences.
Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives
Two of the more popular trends in luxury travel come together at Cheval Blanc Randheli resort. It’s an island, which offers wealthy individuals seclusion, and it’s in the Maldives, a now go-to country for those bored of the Caribbean, says Dee Branciforte, a vice-president with Fischer Travel, a New York-based travel agency that caters to the ultrawealthy.
The Randheli property – Cheval Blanc also has resorts in France and the Caribbean – is “high high high end,” she says. Guests, which have included Prince William and Kate Middleton, rent private villas, some located on their own island, and can spend the day on a resort-provided yacht or receiving massages from a spa located right on the water.
While the website lists rooms from between US$1,200 and US$5,000, Ms. Branciforte says the resort’s four-bedroom private island – different from the island villas, which comes with its own spa, a 25-metre pool and exotic gardens – can run upward of US$56,000 a night.
Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
Sir Richard Branson may be best known for launching Virgin Airlines, but he also runs one of the most sought-after vacation destinations on the planet. In 1979, the business mogul purchased Neckar Island for a paltry US$180,000 and then turned it into a luxury resort geared to the wealthiest of the wealthy.
Everyone from Barack Obama to Mariah Carey to Harrison Ford has spent time at the resort, which can accommodate up to 34 guests. It’s one of the more expensive destinations, with Mr. Edo saying it can run about US$65,000 a night.
For that money, guests can kite surf, wakeboard, scuba dive, lounge by the infinity pool, visit the spa and take advantage of a personal chef. If they come at the right time they may even get to meet the owner of the island himself.
“If you rent the island for a week, then I’m sure Branson will come say hi one day,” says Mr. Edo.
Lion Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Over the last few years, South Africa has become a go-to destination for the 1 per cent. Mr. Edo thinks it has to do with people wanting to learn more about Nelson Mandela and an increasing interest in South African wine, but his clients also enjoy going on safari and experiencing the country’s nature.
Those who want something different might consider staying in one of the Lions Sands Game Reserve’s treehouses. These are secluded, open air “rooms,” where guests can look up at the stars at night or watch tigers, giraffes and lions roam free in the fields below.
“Imagine being on the beach one day, drinking wine the next and then watching a lion from your treehouse,” says Mr. Edo. “It’s that kind of unique experience people are looking for.”
At about US$300 per person per night, the treehouses may not break the bank, but the resort’s luxury lodges, which are essentially houses with multiple rooms and pools – and some come with their own chef – can run upwards of US$12,000 per person a night.
Laucala Island, Fiji
The list of celebrities who have visited the Republic of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean is long – and getting lengthier by the year. Its seclusion makes it a top spot, but it’s a long way from prying paparazzi. Laucala Island is a particularly popular destination, with Oprah Winfrey, supermodel Elle Macpherson and skateboarder Tony Hawk all making visits.
The resort boasts white sand beaches, surrounded by rainforests and 25 Fijian-style villas located in coconut plantations. Golfing is a big draw – it’s par-72 course is surrounded by volcanic mountains – while its “water sports centre” has 14 boats, jet-skis and kayaks. It’s not as expensive as some other resorts, but its 2,690 square-foot villa does cost about US$10,000 a night.
The Enigma XK yacht, Antarctica
For those who want to combine adventure-seeking and luxury living, there’s the Enigma, a 234-foot fisheries patrol vessel-turned-yacht operated by Isle of Man-based Eyos Expeditions. Guests can take the boat – which, with its hardwood floors and white leather couches, resembles a multimillion-dollar home – through Antarctica.
For about €290,000 per week – plus 35 per cent in additional expenses and €25,000 to travel by plane to a Chilean military base on King George Island, which is where one catches the boat – trip-goers can sail with friends through fjords and icebergs, snap pictures of humpback whales and converse onboard with naturalists, which are part of the Antartica travel package.
Eyos Expeditions has several other big boats that can ferry people to the Northwest Passage, Greenland, the Russian Far East and other hard-to-get-to locales.
“People will charter these boats on a private basis,” says Ms. Branciforte. “It’s experiences created just for them.”