Insider’s scoop: Mary Gostelow at ILTM Cannes 2017

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The 16th annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) took place, as always, in Cannes, Monday 4 to Thursday 7 December 2017. As always, every top luxury hotel worldwide seemed to be there – no time to talk to all 1670 exhibitors, let alone the 1662 hosted buyers (travel advisors), for whom a clever computer managed to schedule a total of 66,292 appointments.

There was lots of hot news. On Tuesday morning AccorHotels’ Sébastien Bazin flew in to announce, with Nakheel Chairman Ali Rashid Lootah, a stunning Raffles project on Dubai’s Palm – PALM360 – to be the Palm’s highest building (259 metres), a 125-room hotel tower and a separate residences tower, the two joined, at 170 metres high, by a 155-metre over-air swimming pool.

Monday was the Forum, when ILTM’s Alison Gilmore presented the ILTM Mary Gostelow Award to Virtuoso’s Matthew Upchurch. There were five outstanding 15-minute presentations, culminating in Chris Kutarna, author of Age of Discovery, comparing today’s uncertainty to the Renaissance, when the period 1450–1550 marked the end of the medieval and the start of the new world. Kutana later told me that he personally sees luxury’s biggest evolution becoming exclusivity and privacy. Also yesterday, YouGov released data specifically for ILTM: among many findings, after talking to 3610 luxury travellers in 14 regions worldwide, from the Americas east to Australasia, a staggering 82% said privacy has never been more important to them than it is today. This even extends to those close around (69% per cent of ultra-wealthy Americans downplay their worth even to immediate family members).

But what is privacy, in travel terms? Is it a 120-hectare, 1885-vintage cattle ranch, amid nature at 2700 metres above sea level and surrounded by 4260-metre forested Colorado peaks (if so, head for Dunton Hot Springs, GM Michael Moody; it’s one of over-550 members of Relais & Châteaux). Is privacy a power-house of politicos, away from media, real or fake (if so, The Hay-Adams, Washington DC, GM Hans Bruland, is the nearest hotel to The White House; try its Off The Record bar). Other power breakfasts? Try New York’s Loews Regency, new MD John Maibach; in Paris, it’s Plaza Athenée, MD François Delahaye; in Sydney, Park Hyatt, (Graf) Marc von Arnim; Moscow, Baltschug Kempinski, Oliver Eller; St Petersburg, Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, Sjefke Jansen; and Frankfurt, Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof, new GM, Spiridon Sarantopoulos.

Kimpton De Witt (GM Mike Robinson), next to Amsterdam’s rail station, is a quirky-fun conversion with such local memorabilia as Delft-china spoons for bedrooms’ Magimix espressos; Sammy DeMarco, who heads the wood-fire restaurant, has relocated from New York. At Le Bristol, Paris, GM Luca Allegri has complemented his La Prairie spa with a Vermont-based Tata Harper range. Art-addicts rejoice that the 18th-century hotel, built for Madame de Pompadour, is sideways-on to gallery-blessed rue Matignon. COMO The Treasury is next to Perth’s 1880s St George’s Cathedral, and its futuristic library designed, like the hotel – a conversion of historic buildings – by Kerry Hill: the spa’s in the one-time treasury (there’s a craft beer hall, rooftop fine dining, and signature 120-square-metre Como Suite faces Swan River, GM Anneke Brown). At InterContinental Marseille, GM Madelijn Vervoord, forward-facing rooms in the converted 18th-century Hôtel Dieu look straight down to the old port – Marseille has stunning new culture and retail, easy TGV to Paris and Riviera (try Lionel Levy’s unique deconstructed bouillabaisse). A conservatory with real fire and roll-back glass roof means you can ‘dine outside’, even in mid-winter, at The Lowell, New York‘s Marjorelle (don’t miss Christian Delouvrier’s cheese soufflé – flowers by manager Charles Masson). Hotel GM Heiko Kuenstl also oversees a new lobby with added library rooms.

Get married at Gruppo Unipol Spa’s late-16th-century Villa le Maschere, in the Tuscan hills of Mugello, GM Lucca Giuliano; it’s also renowned for bistecca alla fiorentina (handcrafted knives, Coltelli dell’Artigiano, from nearby Scarperia). Overlooking Rome’s Spanish Steps, The Hassler‘s Penthouse Suite Villa Medici can host receptions for up to 100. Be imaginative and consider the sensational new Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, GM David Hoffman: the city’s 1906-vintage over-water Recreation Pier has been transformed by Under Armor’s Kevin Plank – marry in the open courtyard next to a 3.6-metre black Botero horse, which obviously inspired a recent bride to have nine attendants and family in all-black, with only her poodle’s white net tutu to complement her fairy-floss white gown.

Pendry sibling Montage Beverly Hills – new GM Colm O’Callaghan – was among the first to have a speakeasy (you need a wood key with a magic number to open the £10 Bar, named for the Scotland’s £10 banknote featuring Macallan Single Malt). New York’s hit speakeasy is Tihany-designed The Office at Mandarin Oriental New York, GM Susanne Hatje: enter through an unmarked door, try a Wake & Bake cocktail with bagel aroma; alcoves are just right for privacy-seeking celebrities. In fact just as poolside cabanas provide shields against iPhones, so do bars and restaurants alcoves. Once you find The Hari London Belgravia, you’ll never leave; its cosy mezzanine bar, with semi-private seating nooks, offers perfect privacy (the fact that GM Andrew Coney deliberately has no office means he is always around).

Dominique Debay’s eclectic collection includes Maldives’ five-bedroom Coco Privé, on Kuda Hithi Island. Maldives will also see the first Chatwal Resort, no opening date; its parent, Dream Hotel Group’s Chatwal, named for founding chairman Sant Singh Chatwal, is a company to watch. Its first Chatwal Lodge on the historic Chapin Estate in upstate NY’s Catskills (on 9 hectares, it’ll have about 25 rooms and it’s on schedule, says Dream’s guitar-playing CEO, Jay Stein, to open before the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, 15–17 August 2019, 8 kilometres away). The Chatwal New York is a 2010 conversion of the historic Lambs Club building; its top floor Producer’s Suite, Manhattan-lush lacquer and mirrored, has a terrace, and a 19 glass-tread spiral staircase leads up to your own rooftop. The Chatwal is among 375 members of The Leading Hotels of the World, whose annual conference finished here in Cannes Sunday night: main host was The Majestic, part of Groupe Barrière’s 17-strong portfolio (at Leading’s final gala GM/RVP Pierre-Louis Renou, as if with no care in the world, smiled throughout).

Deborah Yager Fleming, Chairman, Acqualina, Sunny Isles Beach FL, has, with GM Christof Pignet, made this into a one-property brand (a top Virtuoso person returns annually because her kids love it so much): adults praise its pools, one kids-free, and Costa Grill beach eating. In Johannesburg, The Saxon has a new GM, Tom Rutherford, ex-Singita. In Indonesia, 33-room Nihi Sumba, a 50-minute flight from Denpasar, has recently-arrived GMs Jason and Loraine Trollip, also from Singita (Nihi’s CEO James McBride, was honoured last night in New York as one of Bloomberg’s Top 50, all industries, who have changed the landscape of global business in 2017). As well as top surfers (only 10 permits daily – try the Nihiwatu lefthander), Nihi attracts global Goldman Sachs and other achievers for its annual beach polo tournament – it has its own ponies. The 1896-vintage Badrutt’s Palace, GM Richard Leuenberger, also features polo, on the iced-over lake. If golf’s dead for the under-40s, as some say, how to attract them? In alphabetical order, cycling, extreme fitness, mud team-building and yoga are in the list (Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, GM Julien Carraleo, offers complimentary Saturday morning yoga, poolside when the weather allows). But for keen golfers, Park Hyatt Dubai, a true airport-handy Creek-side oasis, has 18 Thomas Bjorn-designed holes at the adjacent Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club (the hotel’s palm-flanked zigzag-shaped pool is another big draw). Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, next to Gary Player golf, has a similar multi-area pool, without the palms, and big attractions also include the beach, and turtle-nesting: 186-square-metre Beach Villas, with outside massage and plunge pools, sleep five.

Royal Danish Ballet star Alexander Kølpin owns the just-opened The Sanders, next to the Royal Danish Theatre (GM Nikolaj Tamakloe, designers Richy Almond and Pemille Lind, art Lydia Cowpertwait). Nimb Hotel, in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, adds 21 terrace rooms, designer Matteo Thun, GM Iben Marburger Juul. Unusually, a Copenhagen-style fish market, FiskeBar, is all the rage at Geneva’s Hotel de la Paix, a Ritz-Carlton Partner Hotel: Scandinavian servers in leather-trimmed gear, today’s catch, a trolley with home-made aquavit (reserve the hotel’s south-facing Grace Kelly Suite). Kosher is now available on safari: Belmond‘s three Botswana camps offer fully certified kosher, $150 extra, daily per person (if requested, a rabbi can be brought along too). Full kosher is also possible at Belmond Mount Nelson, in Cape Town (where, says GM Xavier Lablaude, afternoon tea for all is now retimed for 1pm, 3.30pm and 6pm, and apparently the last sitting is especially popular as it evolves into sunset cocktails in the beautiful sculpture-filled garden. Cape Town maximises its new Zeitz MOCAA, designed by Thomas Heatherwick to house amazing African treasures amassed by Puma founder Johann Zeitz: corporate sponsor One&Only Cape Town, GM Richard Lyon, has one-off culture packages. Also on the what’s new front, Jumeirah Vittaveli introduces The Maldives’ first ice rink. Jordi Tarrida is GM of what could almost be described as a sculpture hotel: Jumeirah Port Soller zigzags, as origami, high along Mallorca’s cliff tops (outside pools, one adults-only, similarly evoke luxury cruising). Tarrida actively supports Restaurants Against Hunger; choose, say, tuna and avocado tartare in Caproig and a euro goes to charity. Jumeirah, by the way, adds four hotels in 2018: Abu Dhabi, Bali, Muscat and Nanjing. Jumeirah’s Carlton Tower, London, has a new GM, Luc Delafosse; although he only started last week expect him to revitalise the always-popular Rib Room (it’s a great breakfast venue, very popular with local Belgravia residents). Dubai’s ‘Wave’, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, GM Sven Wiedenhaupt, closes May and reopens October with a brand-new look.

Ask what’s hot and Iceland’s always among the top: here, Icelandair Hotels, plus destination marketing Iceland Luxury and Virtuoso’s Rekjavik on-site Iceland Encounter, together with bespoke guide PTI, suggest beyond the famous Blue Lagoon to Thingvellir National Park, and scuba-diving at Silfra between two tectonic plates. For space and simplicity, think Nicaragua’s Mukul, two hours’ drive from Managua: 675 hectares, 37 bedrooms and simple farmyard grills with just-picked tomatoes (it’s newly Auberge, GM John Volponi). Also new? The Ryokan Collection’s Atami Sekaie, operated by Tokyo-based Kato Pleasure Group in Atami, under an hour from Tokyo, added Sekaie Tsuki No Michi on 3 November: a rooftop penthouse with private teppanyaki counter overlooking Sagami Bay (there’s also a Hitoshio Meat Cuisine shrine, for charcoal grills, teppanyaki, ‘health you can take home’ wellness food). Courchevel adds K2 Djola, and Stéphane Vidoni’s Fahrenheit Seven, GM Florent Guiral (includes 13 family rooms). Last month, GM Susana Marin Coe-Archer opened 92-room Almanac Barcelona. Yesterday, Bulgari Dubai, looking like a giant dessert crisp, opened, 121 keys, GM Pep Lozano.

Katara Hospitality’s 60-hectare Bürgenstock Resort, masterminded for nine years by Bruno Schôpfer, is finally finished, so return to Lucerne. Drive, or do lake boat+funicular, up 457 metres above the lake; choose, say, end-suite 1111 in the new-build Bürgenstock Hotel, dine in a salon decorated with Escoffier’s actual copper pots, hike, bike, rejuvenate in the extensive spa (complex GM Robert Herr). LUX* Grand Gaube, Mauritius, 92 keys, opens this month; GM Brice Lunot, and, with consultant Patrick John, dining offerings ranging from Peruvian ceviche and Argentinean steaks to a French Kiss bar in a genuine Citroen H van. Amanyangyun, an hour from Shanghai, opens 4 January (GM Benoit Amado, ex-Disney). In February, the 119-key COMO Uma Canggu opens in Canggu (its shared 9.6-kilometre beach has some of Bali’s best surf breaks, worked in partnership with Tropicsurf), GM Javier Beneyto. Christian Langlade opens Naguib Sawiris’ 52-room Silversands Grenada Grand Anse Beach in March (barefoot luxury plus vibrant night life). From April, the stylish Marbella Club adds an integral 49-room Nobu hotel (designer Jean-Pierre Martel). Count Rudi Schönburg’s on-site ambassador Marbella Club, overseen by Shaun Leleu, also chairman of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, similarly Bursha Holdings-owned. Philippe Starck has designed EVOK Hotels’ 59-room Brach Paris, GM Emmanuel Sauvage, opening April; 1000-member serious fitness. Mark Ancrum opens 270-room The St Regis Amman in May – it’s at the Jordanian capital’s 5th Circle. Next November, Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, GM Sandro Fabris, unveils its new back of house and reimagined rooms.

And somehow everyone at ILTM 2017 has to fit into a smaller space, with the historic Martinez, one of the town’s top-four luxury hotels, out of action for its complete new-look by Pierre-Yves Rochon. It reopens 5 March 2018, GM Alessandro Cresta, and it will be rebranded as Hotel Martinez, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt. More next week!

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Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com

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