Betting that summer and holiday travel in 2021 will come back in full force in a post-pandemic world, British billionaire Richard Branson is opening one of his private islands in the Caribbean to the public this summer.
The 70-year-old founder of Virgin Group owns three islands, two in the Caribbean and one in Australia. The island he’s going to open to the public is Moskito Island, a 125-acre property just two miles away from Necker Island, a 30-hectare property which Branson famously bought in 1978 at the age of 29.
Both islands are part of the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Branson bought Moskito in 2007 and ordered a renovation project starting 2010. The island is made up of a collection of luxury private villas which can be rented by guests “looking for the ultimate island hideaway with exceptional service, just like you’d expect from a five-star hotel,” according to the private island’s website.
Branson’s own three-villa, 11-bedroom estate on the island is already accepting reservations. Rates begin at $2,000 per night in a standard double room. Booking four rooms start at $12,000, while reversing the entire villa cost $25,000 per night in summer months, and the rate goes up to $36,000 in Christmas.
With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out globally, the travel industry is expecting a busy summer. In fact, demand for luxury vacation experience is higher than ever as the “screw you 2020” mentality sets in, said Roman Chiporukha, cofounder of Roman & Erica, a New York-based luxury lifestyle and travel management firm.
“People are looking for different and unforgettable experiences. The bystander vacation is no longer an option or a want for our members, and they are racing to book private islands, villas, and yachts without hesitation to avoid losing the property to another,” Chiporukha told Observer.
Roman & Erica serves an exclusive clientele who pay an annual membership fee ranging from $62,500 to $180,000 for arranging vacation, travel, kids’ birthday parties and other lifestyle events.
“Our member base are seeking a disconnect from the conventional vacation that exclusive private islands can provide. These exclusive properties bring forth the opportunity for a robust getaway while avoiding flooded tourist traps,” Chiporukha said.
Branson’s fortune is mostly tied to the various businesses and investments under Virgin Group. His net worth reached an all-time high of $7.3 billion in February 2020 just before the global coronavirus outbreak, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. He lost a third of his fortune, on paper, last summer as Virgin Group grappled with pandemic-related losses. However, thanks to a booming stock market in the second half of 2020, Branson’s net worth quickly recovered to over $7 billion by February 2021. At press time, he’s worth $6.5 billion.
More villas on Moskito is set to open before Thanksgiving. The island is a favorite vacation spot of A-lister celebrities, including former U.S. President Barack Obama and the late Princess Diana.