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Virgin Limited Edition, Richard Branson, The Great House, Necker Island, 2018

‘The day aircraft run on electricity or solar power will be a game-changer for tourism and the planet’

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson, 71, is the swashbuckling tycoon behind the Virgin Group. He has travelled the world launching more than 200 businesses during the past 50 years.  Within his empire are some key travel-focused companies such as the Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Holidays, Virgin Voyages, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Limited Edition, which has some of the most exclusive and glamorous destinations on Earth. Here, Sir Richard joins us from Necker Island to share some memories of a lifetime of supersonic travel.



What is your earliest holiday memory?

Digging for crabs with Mum on a beach in Hastings when I was four. She left me to my own devices for a few moments because she wanted to teach me independence. I caught a crab which grabbed my nose until bled. I ran screaming into a rock pool and nearly drowned. I was terrified, but it was my first real holiday adventure and I loved it. I was bitten by the travel bug!

The suitcase essentials you pack for every trip?

An eye-mask because I can never sleep if there is even the slightest bit of light. I need total blackout. I travel all the time, so I live in a constant state of jet lag. I keep going on a diet of cat naps and tea. I also always pack my PA Elaine – otherwise I would go quite literally NOWHERE!

Snow or sun?

Sun is my first choice. I live on Necker, so sun is never a problem. My favourite place to visit for sun is Kasbah Tamadot which is a Virgin Limited property in Morocco. I always love to sit in a whicker chair drinking mint tea whilst gazing at the Atlas mountains and the stars.

I stopped sunbathing int he 1980s when the risks of skin cancer became more known about. I wear 50stp block every time I am exposed to the sun.  As much as I love the sun I also enjoy the mountains. I climbed the Matterhorn in Zermatt 2018 with my son Sam. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life… until I went into space with Virgin Galactic this year!

The holiday in your younger years that changed your life?

Going on safari with school friends to Africa when I was 19. I saw the Big Five and heard first hand about how endangered are our wild animals. I have since spent £100m on initiatives to save the rhino and elephants. 

Your dream holiday menu at your favourite destinations?

Full fry up on the terrace at the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello overlooking the sea. Coconut prawn curry for lunch at the Datei in Malaysia with an ice cold glass of Mersault Burgundy. Dinner will be steak and chips at Le Mirage in Las Vegas followed by a spectacular show. I’d end the day with a cosy brandy at Carlton in St Moritz with the snow falling all around.

Describe your favourite holdout photo…

It was taken in 1997 at the Fullerton Hoel in Sydney. I am with Donald Trump and we are playing chess. He tried to cheat. At that moment I knew he was a dangerous man with a dark heart. Thankfully, I beat him that day and vowed never to do business with him. Any idea what he is doing now?

Your holiday from hell?

Well, being with Trump is right tup there! It was probably the two weeks I spent at the Sol Pelicans Ocas in Benidorm when I was 22. I tried to impress a girl who was the love of my life then by booking us a top hotel. It made Fawlty Towers look like The Ritz. We didn’t stay for the second week and she chucked me as soon as got home. I was heartbroken.

What’s top of your life-time bucket list?

Paragliding from the top of Mont Blanc. Snorkelling in open water with Great White sharks in South Arica. I am also planning to bobsleigh across the pack ice of Antartica. I pray all these will be ticked off while I am still capable of walking!

The best place for romance?

Top of the Eiffel Tower is hard to beat. I once hired the tower just for me and my wife for our 40th wedding anniversary. After Paris, it has to be dancing at Harbour Lights in Barbados after a few large rum punches.

What innovation would  improve tourists the most?

Fully electric or solo powered aircraft. And tourists who cared about the planet more.

Your next trip will be where?

I am sailing to the Cook Islands on Rupert Murdoch’s yacht.  A friend who hates him has asked me to push him off, but he’s actually a pussy cat and I adore him.

The holiday you wish you could live again?

That second week in Spain with the girl I loved! Seriously, it would have to be the first time I took our two children Holy and Sam to Disneyland. It was two weeks of non-stop fun and laughter. Disney is THE best.

The most extravagant trip you have been on?

I am blessed with no end of glamour, but my favourite holidays are always the simple trips. Loved ones, a beach, fresh food, cold beer – and a surf board. I am relatively easily pleased – for a “billionaire”!

What does the future look like for tourism?

The near future it is bleak, but I feel positive about the longterm – only if people change their habits. Every trip has to be carbon off-set by every traveller. Sustainability is the only way ahead – or there won’t even be a planet to visit. We must all start NOW.

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