As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens across the United States, some of the country’s richest citizens have fled for a remote oasis: New Zealand.
This is not a new phenomenon; New Zealand has long been a destination getaway for those with the time and money to fly there. In fact, so many people consider it ideal for an emergency home that New Zealand passed a law two years ago that bans foreigners from purchasing real estate in the country.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 and subsequent economic fallout in the U.S. brought renewed interest to New Zealand as a place to run away from the troubles of the world. Though non-essential travel to and from the U.S. has now been locked down — and New Zealand closed its own borders in mid-March — plenty of people made it out in time.
Now they’re holed up in luxury bunkers waiting for the pandemic to blow over.
Hold up...luxury bunkers? — Yep, luxury bunkers. The ban on buying up real estate from a few years ago only put a temporary damper on rich Americans’ disaster planning.
Rising S Company, one of the top luxury bunker developers, has essentially been preparing for something like this for years. The company has about 10 private bunkers in New Zealand, ranging in price from $3 million to $8 million. The shelters reportedly include luxury bathrooms, gyms, home theaters, shooting ranges, game rooms, and even surgical beds.
Shelter in someone else's place — Global underground shelter company Vivos has installed a 300-person bunker in New Zealand’s South Island, said Robert Vicino, the company’s founder. Vicino says in the last week alone he’s had two more calls from prospective clients looking to build similar shelters on the island.
Vivos is finding similar luck in other parts of the world during the pandemic. At least two dozen families have already moved into the company’s 5,000-person bunker in South Dakota, which sits on a former military base nearly the size of Manhattan. An 80-person bunker has also been built in Indiana, and a 1,000-person shelter is in development in Germany.
The elite have been prepping for years — Many of New Zealand’s most recent newcomers hail from Silicon Valley. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, for example, owns two estates in New Zealand, at least one of which contains a safe room.
Tech entrepreneur Mihai Dinulescu was set to open a cryptocurrency startup when the novel coronavirus first found its way into the U.S. He canceled the operation and boarded a flight for New Zealand with his wife instead.
He’s now hiding out in a three-bedroom house with a view of the ocean, which he’s renting for $2,400 per month. Dinulescu has connected with at least 10 other people who made it to New Zealand in time. He says he’s heard from plenty of other venture capitalists who missed the small escape window and now can’t make it to the island nation.
Doomsday prep is the new black — The United States is witnessing just how quickly the pillars of its society can crumble in the event of catastrophic change. Historic numbers of people are out of work, tens of thousands have already died because of the coronavirus, and there’s no end in sight. Everyone is realizing just how unprepared they — and those in charge — were for a pandemic.
The founder of Vivos believes we’ll see a huge surge in disaster-preparedness measures when the pandemic finally eases. “Obviously the coronavirus is making people realize how vulnerable we all are, but what people are really concerned about is the aftermath,” he says.
He believes the world’s richest people will be at the forefront of the doomsday-prepper movement, as they’ll worry about “looters or marauders.” Even as the rest of the economy slumps into a depression, the luxury bunker market is set to soar.