Life: Luxury Down Under, Naturally

Emirates’ new über luxurious conservation-based resort in Australia takes the concept of sustainable development to a new level

By Sushmita Bose

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Published: Fri 14 Aug 2009, 9:10 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

Emirates’ Hotels & Resorts division is flying high. After the success of its Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa — which is fully integrated into its environment and supports wide-ranging conservation practices — it has ventured out of Dubai, all the way Down Under, and is ready for the soft opening of the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa. The AD$120 million luxury resort is located on Australia’s Great Dividing Range, within the heart of the Blue Mountains world heritage area.

“Occupying just two per cent of a 4,000-acre reserve and surrounded by two National Parks, it offers the ultimate in seclusion, comfort and guest-focused services, all within conservation-based luxury,” is how Wolgan Valley is being promoted.

Talking to the Khaleej Times from Wolgan Valley, the resort’s general manager, Joost Heymeijer, points out that he is looking at the “mature traveller” as the key target audience. “Somebody who has a good understanding about what luxury—and luxury products — means. More importantly, somebody who will appreciate the opportunity to be in solitude in a world-class location and be at one with nature. It’s a great chance to slip away into obscurity and relax in private.”

Emirates planned to open a high-end accommodation and conservation based-venue, and looked to Australia since it is a successful destination for the airline, and tourism options there are multi-layered, explains Joost.

“There is no end of fabulous locations in Australia, but there were a couple of reasons why we opted for the Blue Mountains: The fact that it is a world heritage area and it’s on the doorstep of Sydney (it’s a three-hour drive away from Sydney International Airport), which is the hub of travel in Australia — more than 50 per cent of travellers consider Sydney the gateway to Oz.”

Talking about clients from the Middle East, Joost points out, “The Middle Eastern segment is growing year on year, with travellers being attracted to the beaches and the great outdoors here... Plus, there is huge loyalty to Emirates.”

Wolgan Valley boasts green architecture, reminiscent of traditional rural Australian homesteads, and environmentally-sustainable practices such as rainwater collection, grey water recycling, energy exchange technology and the use of solar panels. The resort will ultimately have over 100 solar energy units, significantly reducing its energy consumption, and therefore its carbon footprint. Wolgan Valley also hopes to regenerate the area by planting thousands of indigenous trees — including the rare Wollemi Pine. The pine was thought to have been extinct until discovered again by chance in the Blue Mountains in 1994.

Wolgan Valley’s business model will follow closely the success of the Al Maha desert resort outside Dubai, which is set in 225 square kilometres of unspoiled, stunning desert landscape.

The selling points, Joost enumerates, are similar to Al Maha: an exceptional location, the chance to participate in nature-based activities, being part of an environmentally-friendly and sustainable outlook, and a great level of luxury. Even the food philosophy is built on a sustainable model, he adds. All ingredients — obviously organic — will be sourced locally, from within a 100 mile radius.

Accommodation rates — valid from October 1, 2009 to March 31 , 2010 — are in keeping with the premium nature of hospitality (40 individual suites surrounded by private decks, each having its own indoor/outdoor swimming pool and double-sided fireplace): approximately Dh5,888 a night at the Heritage Suites, Dh10,574 at the Wollemi Suites and Dh16,609 at the one and only (literally) Wolgan Suite (the rates are lesser if you opt for a minimum three-day stay). Rates are inclusive of gourmet breakfast, lunch, dinner and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as two nature-based activities per day (horse-riding, bushwalking with a field guide, 4x4 guided tour etc).

Joost adds that Emirates is now working on developing a high-end sanctuary-based property in the Seychelles.

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