Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Different

Whether by nature, nurture or necessity - and probably all three - I'm an irredeemably frugal traveller. I'll always walk when I can, or take a bus if I have to, rather than a taxi, and stay in modest hotels, skimp on meals, and rarely go shopping. It's just the way I am. Fortunately for the travel industry, though, there are plenty of people who more than make up for my meanness. Right now I'm writing a series of NZ stories for a luxury travel magazine and the brief included the description of the specific market for this particular campaign. They're called Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, worth $30 million plus. "Money is no object," the brief tells me helpfully. "A couple can spend well in excess of $100,000 on a holiday."

Quite apart from the impossibility of getting my head around that figure - "in-country spend only" the brief clarifies - there's the moral issue here. How many people's eyesight could that much money restore? How many rhino protected from poachers? How much life-saving medical research funded? But let's be generous and assume that the fortunate owners of this "extreme wealth" assign a decent portion of their lucre to deserving causes, and are simply looking for a carefree and memorable holiday that includes plenty of experiences that money can't necessarily buy. Except, of course, it does. Yes, they could take a picnic to a beach in the Bay of Islands and do a bit of swimming and snorkelling - who hasn't done that? Except their version is to be whisked by helicopter to an uninhabited islet and unpack a 5-star gourmet package with the very best chilled Cloudy Bay or Kim Crawford to sip with it. Because they're rich, and they can.
The selling-point of places like Kauri Cliffs, or Blanket Bay, or Huka Lodge is that they charge from around several thousand dollars a night so that you can feel that the place is yours, and you can wander about making wishes that are granted as magically as if there were a fairy godmother on the premises rather than low-profile focused managers calling in all their local knowledge and know-how. The food is always 5-star, Pacific Rim fusion, using local produce and much of it grown on the property. There will always be an infinity pool, uninterrupted views of mountains, lake or sea, a ferny spa, a marble bathroom, quantities of stone, glass and timber, and helicopters at the ready. It's another world, really - or, a parallel one, with the same scenery and type of experience (fishing, hiking, biking, sleeping in a strange bed, your food cooked for you) but on another level entirely.

I know: I've been there. Not paying, naturally, but lapping up freebies at Blanket Bay, Matakauri Lodge, Treetops, Eichardt's... And they've been gorgeous, truly. But pay all that money? I'd rather save a rhino. (Though, if you're reading this, Eagle's Nest, I'm happy to come for a gander.)

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