With the vaccine roll-out continuing apace and countries gradually re-opening their borders, travellers are dusting off their passports and preparing to make up for lost time. According to Google data, the search term ‘private island holidays’ saw a 178 per cent increase over the past year, and it comes as no surprise that destinations such as French Polynesia, the Maldives and the Seychelles are seeing a huge surge in demand.
“After months of not being able to travel, our guests are ready to reward themselves,” says Ann Epting, Senior Vice President of Private Jet & Special Interest Travel at Abercrombie & Kent (A&K). “The pandemic has put things into perspective. People want to celebrate missed milestones and experience places they’ve always dreamed of – and they are unwilling to wait any longer.”
Epting cites A&K’s around-the-world Private Jet Wildlife Safari as a prime example of the emerging ‘push-the-boat-out’ travel trend. The expedition for 48 passengers costs from £120,265 per head and promises unrivalled wildlife encounters in seven countries – Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Madagascar, Rwanda and Kenya – plus luxurious lodges and no airport queues. They’ve even laid on a ‘travelling bell boy’ to ensure luggage is promptly dispatched at each pitstop. The itinerary launched earlier this year and sold out immediately. So high was the demand for places, extra departures have been announced for 2022.
Similarly, in response to growing demand, the tour operator Scott Dunn has launched Scott Dunn Private, an entirely new membership platform for elite travellers seeking discretion, privacy and access to far-flung shores. In other words, 2021 is the year of the travel blow-out.
Top of the billing for jetsetters are white sand beaches, and with privacy being the new luxury, the more remote the better. Already this year, Elegant Resorts has seen a 25 per cent increase in Indian Ocean holidays. The figures are based on bookings and enquiries made from March 1 to April 12 this year compared with the same dates in 2019. According to Rebecca Turner, Head of Product and Commercial at Elegant Resorts, it’s driven mainly by bookings to the Maldives which has shown an increase of 76 per cent. “People are staying in higher hotel categories, upgrading, and travelling for longer durations than they did before the pandemic,” she confirms.
Hotels are meeting demand in a variety of ways. In central America, Islas Secas, a cluster of 14 private islands off the coast of Panama, has introduced a private plane transfer from Panama City to an airstrip on the main Secas island, allowing guests to get to the resort in under 60 minutes. The new plane, which departs from Tocumen International Airport will save guests hours of domestic plane and boat travel.
The Brando in French Polynesia (where Kim Kardashian held her 40th birthday celebrations) is seeing a shift in its business model towards exclusive hire. “Buy-outs for 2021 make up 10 per cent of our business now,” says General Manager Silvio Bion. “We are seeing lots of requests for the months of September and October with two stays confirmed, two rescheduled and seven more pending.”
Too bling? Another option is Bawah Reserve, a private archipelago in Indonesia’s Anambas Islands. The six-island resort is soon to unveil half a dozen lodges on Elang, a previously untouched island available to hire in its entirety. Designed by Singaporean designer Sim Boon Yang, the lodges each come with their own butler, ocean views and direct access to the beach, and the island has its own restaurant, spa and saltwater pool scooped out of natural rock. According to Paul Robinson, Bawah Reserve’s COO, the resort has seen ‘huge’ interest in buy-outs, and bookings are looking ‘strong’ for 2021 and beyond.
With just 14 villas and no neighbours to speak of, Miavana, a private eco-island located off the north coast of Madagascar is really as remote as it gets. Pristine beaches, wild lemurs, world-class diving and helicopter adventures await those who make the journey. New General Manager Austen Johnston predicts the ‘go big or go home’ trend is here to stay. “Now more than ever, travellers are looking for remote destinations that offer absolute privacy,” says Johnston. “A place where the rest of the world’s worries melt away. Guests are looking for bucket-list destinations that offer something unique: unexplored landscapes, rare wildlife and adventure. Something more than just a vacation, places that make a meaningful difference in the world.”