Thursday, February 29, 2024

Billionaire Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson talks about his travels

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Billionaire Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson talks about his travels, from his love of a hotel club sandwich to his hatred of ‘lukewarm cruise food from a buffet’

This week, billionaire Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson checks in to our travel Q and A. 

He describes his idea of a hellish cruise holiday, reflects on his earliest travel memory and reveals his go-to room service order.  

What sort of holidayer are you?

I can’t sit still for long so forget sun-loungers. I need adventure and exercise. Give me a game of tennis to start the day, followed by a kite-surf, then a mountain bike ride, and I’m happy.

What can’t you travel without?

My assistant, Helen. She travels everywhere with me and is always one step ahead. She always brings warmth and good humour and keeps me going if I’m feeling homesick.

Richard Branson checks in to our travel Q&A, revealing that his most recent trip was to Lapland for a charity event 

Ideal travel companion?

My wife Joan — although she doesn’t travel much these days. We met in 1976 and she is still my rock. She’s calm and always calls me out when she thinks I’m wrong, which keeps me grounded.

Earliest travel memory?

 I can’t sit still for long so forget sun-loungers. I need adventure and exercise.

Chilly but fun days on the beaches of Salcombe, Devon, when I was seven. Lovely memories of rock-pooling, catching sand eels, and an aunt betting me ten shillings I could not learn to swim by the end of the two weeks. Despite the sea being cold and choppy, I did it and won.

Your last trip was where?

Lapland. We did our latest Strive Challenge to raise money for Big Change — [his children] Holly and Sam’s education charity. It was 170 km (106 miles) above the Arctic Circle with minus 30c (minus 22f) temperatures and waist-deep snow. We snow-biked, ice-dipped and ran half-marathons across frozen rivers. It was truly fantastic. [At the weekend I was in] Edinburgh for the launch party of the new Virgin Hotel. I love straight-talking Scots — it’s why I married one. Joan is from Glasgow.

Your go-to room service order?

Something simple, such as a club sandwich or a Caesar salad. The benchmark of a good hotel is how they do the favourite basics. If those are done beautifully, I’m confident everything else will run smoothly.

The unforgettable holiday romance?

Taking Joan to view Necker when I heard an island was for sale. The estate agent had offered me an all-expenses paid trip to see it. I was smitten — both with my new love and the island. The price was $6 million (£3.2 million), so I politely declined. A year later, in 1979, no one had made any offers, so I bought Necker for $180,000 (£87,000). Now we have our beautiful home there.

Richard Branson has his own home on Necker, above, which he reveals he bought for £87,000

Richard Branson has his own home on Necker, above, which he reveals he bought for £87,000

Your idea of holiday hell?

A cruise where I have to be suited and booted for dinner, only to be served lukewarm food from a buffet. That’s why we launched Virgin Voyages — to change the old ideas of cruising.

Your worst holiday?

Skiing in Verbier, Switzerland, over New Year in 2011 when a teenager crashed into me at top speed and ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). A scary and painful moment. I had a knee op the next day when a new ACL was screwed in. It has healed.

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