British-born Branson is the man behind the multi-billion dollar brand Virgin (as if you didn’t know), which first produced hit records and rock stars in the 1970s and has since diversified into more than 200 companies – selling everything from seats on his own fleet of planes and trains, to hotel beds and holidays, financial and mobile phone services. His latest enterprises are his most ‘exclusive’ to date, with ambitions to send tourists on commercial flights into sub-orbital space. A cool $200,000 reserves your place in one of the most exclusive clubs in the world (or out of it) – with access to the bearded British knight during a series of astronaut forums on his Caribbean ‘Necker Island’ home or his South African Game reserve Ulusaba; first-hand inspections of the Galactic spaceships throughout their development; and ultimately, experiencing the thrill of zero gravity. And after space, look out for Virgin Oceanic journeying deep into the sea.
However, if you’re most happy on terra firma, Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition luxury portfolio of retreats (which includes the two mentioned above), may be more your cup of Virgin-style tea and a little birdie tells us more Virgin hotels may be coming soon.
What inspired you to create Virgin Limited Edition?
Well, it all came about really as it seemed a shame to have a series of homes around the world that lay empty when I am not there. So what I have created over the years are some really special homes that we share with other people.
What is the single best defining thing about your collection of retreats?
Each property is run like a home, since they are by and large homes. They are small, especially in comparison to the larger hotel chains out there, and each one brings soul and personality to the mix; our quirkiness is a nice distinction and each operates with the sole aim of creating amazing experiences for our guests.
Which is your ultimate favourite in the collection? (and why)
I love all the properties, but I think my favourite has to be Necker Island, as this one truly is my home. I am very lucky; I have travelled all over the world, and I really do think it’s the most beautiful spot on earth.
What is the next big luxury travel trend?
Personally, I think the expectations of today’s luxury traveller is constantly changing. I believe that Virgin Galactic will be the next frontier and shortly following this I think underwater exploration is going to be the next big trend, and we’re hoping to be a part of it with the launch of Virgin Oceanic in the future.
What is your personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the ‘luxury’ tag?
Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
I love Bali and the Aman resorts, there are some lovely resorts there, and it’s such a beautiful destination.
What is your favourite city to visit?
It would have to be Sydney in Australia; it’s one of my favourite places in the world.
Tell us about your best overseas restaurant experience.
Icebergs on Bondi Beach, it has the most stunning views over the beach, fantastic food & wine, and you are always guaranteed a good time.
What three things do you never travel without?
Apart from my wife, my passport, blackberry and wallet. Although I have been known to forget my passport on the odd occasion!
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
Travelling on an airline that generally cares for you!
What is the most important thing (travel-wise) that money CAN buy?
What is the most important thing it can’t?
This article is provided by The Luxury Travel Bible, The World’s Ultimate Destination Guide.