Resort buyouts win over ultra-lux travellers looking to travel again

  • Demand spike for hotel and resort buyouts in time of coronavirus
More hoteliers bringing buyouts to the forefront, promising worry-free holidays, but at a hefty price
  • Property buyouts seen as revenue saviours
Anantara Kihavah aerial view

As ‘safecations’ slowly take root as the newest travel trend, more luxury hotels and private island resorts are taking seclusion to a whole new lavish level, offering property buyouts for the ultimate private experience.

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is one example. The group recently launched a collection of buyout retreats in a host of destinations, from the Maldives to the Medjumbe Island off the coast of Mozambique. The price of such seclusion? A whopping US$20,000 to US$100,000 per night.

For instance, the 20 villas at Naladhu Private Island Maldives, a sister property to Anantara, offers takeovers for up to 50 guests, starting at US$35,000 per night, requiring a three-night minimum stay. The hefty price tag includes water excursions on a private yacht, a range of watersports activities, personalised butler service, and a resort doctor on 24-hour standby.

Thomas Meier, senior vice president for operations at Minor Hotels, said that while the group has previously offered exclusive-use properties, its recent deeper push into buyouts is in response to spiking demand.

He elaborated: “In the last couple of months, Anantara has seen a notable increase in enquiries relating to buyout opportunities in a number of destinations where we have properties, including in remote destinations and island resorts. We decided to collate a number of packages from some of our exclusive island resorts that have the potential to become ‘private islands’, and actively promote (them) for buyouts.”

These options, Meier shared, are aimed at high net worth travellers on a global level, and they have garnered interest from across the Middle East, Russia, India, Asia and Europe. “In terms of length of stay, this has varied from four nights up to 45, but the average request is for one to two weeks,” he added.

Anantara is among a growing pool of luxury resorts wooing deep-pocketed travellers with promises of complete peace of mind. Nihi Sumba, a luxury resort on the remote island of Sumba in Indonesia, is no stranger to buyouts, having since 2016 put the property up for exclusive hire, at a starting price of US$250,000 for three nights, inclusive of flight, guest experiences and private entertainment.

However, in light of post-lockdown needs, the 29-villa resort recently pushed out a million-dollar, month-long buyout with the tagline: Socially Distant, Wildly Connected. Offering up to 80 guests full run of the 233ha sanctuary, the rate includes meals, laundry, tour of the Sumba Foundation (the resort’s charity arm) projects, water activities, group yoga and meditation classes, as well as a five per cent donation to the Sumba Foundation.

Elsewhere in Seychelles, JA Enchanted Island Resort and Six Senses Zil Pasyon have also launched buyouts, for a starting rate of 9,950 euros (US$11,140) and 330,000 euros for a week-long stay, respectively. Access to the resort’s villas and facilities, bespoke dining experiences and a wealth of water activities are built into both resorts’ buyout packages.

For Bawah Reserve, a private island resort in Indonesia’s Riau Islands, the number of buyout enquiries have doubled.

Kristen Graff, director of sales and marketing, said enquiries had come from “as far away as Scotland and the US, while bookings have been made from countries closer to us, Singapore and Hong Kong”.

Customers are looking to stay between three and seven days.

“We have two corporate buyout bookings for November, both made during the Covid-19 crisis, and a potential wedding in the summer of 2021,” Graff revealed, adding that the resort will be launching destination wedding packages later this year and have spoken to several corporate groups who want to use the whole island for a retreat.

Six Senses Zil Pasyon

Buyouts: the safest vacation mode?
As travel begins to arouse from its deep slumber, destinations that boast sea, sun and seclusion have become major draws for consumers in light of the current global threat. Private islands and luxury resorts set in remote locales seem tailor-made for socially distanced vacations. And what safer way to do so than a total takeover?

James McBride, CEO and partner, Nihi Hotels, said resort buyouts would greatly appeal to those seeking an unprecedented opportunity to experience a private resort fully on their own terms and at their own pace.

“Considering the current Covid situation, travellers’ desire for uncommon and extraordinary travelling experiences will stir toward extremely private arrangements to allow them to further enjoy their special occasions,” he added.

Agreeing, Burak Aydin, general manager, JA Resorts & Hotels, said: “We have entered a time where travelling and vacationing habits are changing. People’s priorities and needs are shifting focus. Renting a private island may have seemed like an extreme luxury in the past, however moving forward, it will be seen as a wise choice by many.”

For those still looking to travel, even as a cure for coronavirus remains elusive, buyouts seem like a ticket to a worry-free holiday. Beyond solitude, buyouts also offer the luxury of abundant space for extended families to come together.

Meier shared: “As we move into the ‘new normal’, the enquiries we’ve been receiving to date (for buyouts) are from large family groups or for celebrations with family and friends, allowing the opportunity to spend quality time together in isolation with the knowledge that they’ll not be having to see or interact with other guests.

“With peace of mind and safety being such a priority right now, we see that a higher number of customers are willing to spend more to ensure a safe and trusted experience.”

Bespoke buyouts can also be curated to suit guest needs. “Some groups may want all-inclusive with everything from transfers, F&B and experiences, while others may prefer solely accommodation or B&B – we are able to be very flexible and arrange bespoke solutions,” Meier said.

Additionally, the wildly wealthy who are also looking to social distance in the sky are opting to fly by private jets, once borders reopen.

Meier shared that Minor International’s MJets, which operates a small fleet of private jets out of Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, has seen an increase in enquiries for travel both within Thailand and regionally, in addition to further afield.

Recovering lost ground
Even as travel restrictions loosen, virus fears persist, keeping tourists at bay. Thus, buyouts could offer hoteliers a way to make up for the revenue shortfall stemming from lower occupancy levels.

Aydin shared that this is the first time JA Enchanted Island Resort has been put up for private hire, after the pandemic’s crippling impact on tourism forced the resort to rethink strategies in line with current market trends.

He elaborated: “JA Enchanted Island Resort has always been popular for romantic getaways and has been preferred for its privacy and beautiful natural surroundings. The resort has been almost sold out throughout the recent years, thus, not allowing much flexibility in allocating the whole island as a buyout option. Now seems to be the perfect occasion to be able to enjoy this enchanting island all to yourself.”

Aydin added: “Our country is one of the few that are Covid-19 free and being an island resort only enhances this fact by offering an even more protected environment.”

Within the first week of launching, the buyout retreat drew interest from potential buyers from Europe, the UAE and the local market, made up of extended families and group of friends, according to Aydin.

Similarly, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is looking to make up for the drop in tourist footfall by intensifying marketing efforts around buyouts. Requests have come in from Russia, the UK and China, according to Jad Frem, regional director of sales and marketing Indian Ocean, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.

Frem added that island privatisation was not a new initiative by Six Senses, “but (we) have not proactively gone out into the market with a package previously, as under normal circumstances, the hotel would be operating with FIT bookings”.

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