Buying a private island is a rite of passage for the world’s wealthiest. And now, in China, despite national moves toward modest spending among public officials, the growing number of privately wealthy billionaires want in on the rich tradition.
According to a report by the Guangzhou Daily, a group of wealthy Chinese will be island hopping in the South Pacific this month in search of small tropical isles to call their own. A group of six privately wealthy entrepreneurs -- including Lin Dong, the founder of a medical equipment company -- from the southern province of Guangdong will be traveling to Fiji, Tuvalu and Tahiti, where private islands run at lower rate than other places.
“Islands there are not expensive,” Lin told the newspaper. “About 3 million yuan [about $483,000] for one island.”
While most people don’t have half a million dollars to drop, that is actually cheaper than most of the high-profile purchases made by celebrities and money-making moguls of the West. Take British billionaire Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, who bought an island in the British Virgin Islands valued at $100 million; it reportedly costs $322,000 a week to rent. According to Forbes, actor Mel Gibson also reportedly paid $15 million for Mago Island, in Fiji, back in 2004, where it continues to be one of the largest privately owned islands in the South Pacific.
“Fiji is located in the South Pacific where the environment is very beautiful and the location is good as direct flights will begin soon,” Lin said.
While Chinese investing in real estate internationally has become quite common, Lin says most of the purchases aren’t business moves, but rather for play.
“Different people have their own way of pleasure,” Lin said. “I prefer an island to be quiet with a beach so that I can fish while reading books and listening to music, while some prefer more wild ways, like building a simple villa, or to just live on a yacht.”
Lin adds that owning an island -- or several -- is the pinnacle of the wealthy market. “It’s like an aircraft carrier in some ways in that you need to be equipped with private jets and yachts before really owning an island.”
In China, Lin set up a 60-member strong group of island owners, and he expects membership will continue to grow as well as interest in owning islands. An interest that began for him in 2006, when he bought his first island in a lake in Heyuan, in Guangdong province. Since then, Lin has acquired more than 40 additional island properties.