July 11, 2006

Courting the Jet Set : by By SUEIN HWANG of the Wall Street Journal

Across the globe, a handful of developing nations, are subverting the traditional tourism model. Rather than allowing themselves to be pioneered by the budget backpacker crowd, only later to develop the infrastructure for big hotels, these nations are starting in the opposite direction. They're first wooing that minuscule slice of affluent travelers who will pay massive premiums for fancy digs far removed from the travel high value, low volume" tourism, the theory is to maximize the money derived from a small group of big spenders. In doing so, these countries hope not only to avoid damaging their natural and cultural attractions, but also aim to hang on longer to that exclusive cachet that will keep fickle luxury travelers returning for many years;

is a darling of luxury travel circles. It recently attracted Amanresorts, the super-luxury hotel chain, which is in the process of building five Aman resorts that will be scattered across the nation. The daily rate (including meals, fees and services): about $1,100. (Even at that price, there are no television sets or phones in the rooms, though iPods are provided upon request

a landlocked country bordered by ,among other nations, the government leases its prime wildlife-viewing areas to a handful of small lodges that offer top-drawer service at high prices. Vumbura Plains, a camp that opened this year, includes private plunge pools with each of its rooms. In an up-and-coming travel destination in southwestern known for its stark desert landscapes, a $1,000-per-night resort opened last year. And in the Seychelles< a string of Indian Ocean islands off East Africa, the only on its & has rooms that run over $3,000 a night.Luxury travel in developing countries isn't without controversy. To some, it is unseemly to build $1,000-a-night resorts in parts of the world where many people live in ;Each room at Vumbura Plains has a private pool

High prices don't always ensure a flawless vacation. In April of this year, Chantal Prunier, a retired real-estate executive in paid several thousands of dollars for a trip to & that she says included middling food, medium-grade bathroom facilities and in one case, limited electricity. Still, Ms. Prunier raves about the trip, which was organized by San Francisco-based Geographic Expeditions. &quot;The countryside and people are beautiful,&quot; she says. &quot;It is one of the most exotic places in the world

Botswana</st1:country-region>, the country's exclusivity strategy was inspired, some travel experts say, by the small, luxury camps that first popped up in

The government limits the number of visitors to its wilderness areas. Colin Bell, founder of Wilderness Safaris, the largest operator in
says one private reserve of 275,000 acres is allowed a maximum of 52 visitors at any one time. Mr. Bell says that his firm pays $300,000 a year plus over 20% of the lodge's profits to the local community for exclusive use of another safari area.

top-flight camps, the rooms are more like compounds, including a luxury tent, deck, indoor and outdoor showers and what's called a sala, a separate covered deck furnished with day beds for outdoor game viewing.

East Africa</st1:place>, but that doesn't seem to be scaring off customers. Mr. Bell says some of his camps are running at 90% occupancy. &quot;Many of the camps are showing limited availability for April, May, June of next year adds Ryan Hilton, a Sarasota, Fla.-based agent specializing in luxury safaris. &quot;There's no shortage of money and travelers prepared to pay
appears to be moving toward a high-end, low-volume strategy similar to &

the new Little Ongava camp's three thatched rooms are set amid 74,000 acres.&

An interior of a guest tent at the Mombo camp in <st1:country-region   w

It is unclear how long the countries will pursue the exclusivity strategy, however, especially when faced with increasing demand. Travel veterans point to Costa Rica
& and the Galapagos as examples of countries that began pursuing such policies only to fall off the wagon, tempted by the influx of dollars that bigger numbers bring. Richard Butler, professor of International Tourism at the City notes that such policies are easier to pursue if the appeal of a destination is naturally limited for other reasons, like the Caribbean which uses its off-the-beaten-path appeal to compensate for a lack of white sand beaches. Already, the place while still regarded as high-end, now boast a number of big hotel developments

In the meantime, some travelers are willing to pay for an experience that is a touch more exotic. Jules Rose, a retired supermarket executive in Ontario says he booked his safari 10 months in advance and paid a 15% to 20% premium more than he did for a safari in Kenya

In exchange, Mr. Rose says he got a much more intimate view of the animals and their lives, as opposed to &quot;six to seven Land Rovers in one spot in any given time. It's like everything in life,&quot; he says. You pay for what you get

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