A Chinese student and an Italian businessman are each ready to part with nearly $A1.5 million to embark on a two-year package holiday visiting more than 150 countries.
The trip – billed as the 'world's most expensive holiday' – was launched last month by VeryFirstTo.com, a website specialising in bespoke experiences. Now the company's founder, Marcel Knobil, says the two wealthy travellers have expressed firm interest in becoming the first people to embark on the epic odyssey.
The first, an unnamed Chinese man who is currently studying for a PhD, has signed up, but will be unable to begin the tour until he has completed his academic commitments next year.
An Italian industrialist is also on the verge of booking, according to Mr Knobil. His itinerary is currently being finalised, and he is likely to be the first to actually begin the long journey.
"We've had plenty of interest from other parties too," said Mr Knobil. "Considering how much some people are willing to pay for a one- or two-week holiday, the package actually represents pretty good value for money. The biggest concern has been the amount of free time required, and some people have enquired about visiting one continent at a time instead."
The holiday, which costs £990,000 ($A1.47 million) for two people – including a £10,000 donation to UNESCO – was announced just over a month ago. The two-year itinerary includes visits to every one of the world's 962 World Heritage Sites, including Australia's 19 sites such as the Ningaloo Coast, the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park.
Although the there are currently warnings against travel to a number of World Heritage Sites, such as Aleppo, Pasargadae in Iran, Leptis Magna in Libya, and the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, the firm said it would try to cater for those who insist on visiting every attraction. The Chinese student who signed up this month said he wanted to travel to every site that "can be visited safely", according to Mr Knobil.
The trip includes overland travel and flights (in business class cabins or superior), while tours of the different sites will be guided. Accommodation will be at a range of luxury hotels, including Sandy Lane in Barbados, the Hotel George V in Paris, The Plaza in New York, the Cipriani in Venice, The Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, and the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai.
Other experiences offered by VeryFirstTo.com include a trip into space ($A102,000), and the chance to wake up surrounded by more than one million rose petals ($A104,00).
Last year it gave wealthy gastronomes the opportunity to fork out $A186,000 on Christmas dinner for four. The menu included Almas caviar ($A7400); a 150-year-old balsamic vinegar; the world's most expensive melon, the Yubari King from China ($A3700); and a whole white truffle ($A5200). See VeryFirstTo.com for more information.
The Telegraph, London