The first-ever ILTM Asia Pacific, 21–24 May 2018, was a resounding success. As Charles de Foucault, GM of One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius, said at the end of the second day: “ILTM is so well organised, and the venue is spectacular.” Marina Bay Sands’ convention space offers, as someone else said, a venue for a 21st-century ILTM, spacious and bright. It can certainly cope with numbers (other recent events here have been for tax-free and YPO, and ILTM was simultaneously held with a Mary Kay convention and a meeting of iron-ore people). ILTM took up two of the six main convention rooms, which was more than ample space for 155 main exhibitor stands, holding in all over 553 exhibitors.
As always with ILTM there was a matching number, 538, of top travel advisors, concierge companies and private travel designers, coming from 16 countries in Asia Pacific, plus seven Russia/CIS nations and 11 other countries (compared to previous ILTMs in Asia, there were 83% more buyers from Australasia). In all, over three days, there were 28,829 pre-arranged meetings. Well done to ILTM Portfolio Director, Alison Gilmore, and Andy Ventris and the rest of the 20-strong ILTM team for making it all such a success.
The serious business, three days of meetings, was at Marina Bay Sands. Fifteen-minute slots ran from 10 am until 6 pm for the first two days, closing an hour earlier on the final day to allow everyone to get ready for the winding-down party on the 57th-floor rooftop deck of Marina Bay Sands.
Every day there were hosted lunches and cocktails galore, and yes, I did manage three cocktail gatherings one evening. One day I lunched with a couple of dozen Australians, and others, at the brilliant Red Dot Design Museum (hosts that day were Dolder Grand, Zurich, and the La Réserve group, whose CEO Jean-Luc Naret had brought along champagne and wines produced by La Réserve owner, Michel Reybier). And evenings? No, they did not fade into oblivion. One of the most unusual was One&Only’s elegant soirée in Marina Bay Sands’ Louis Vuitton store, a futuristic sculpture sticking out into Marina Bay; reach it by an underwater tunnel and, once there, it was as chic as Faubourg Saint- Honoré, with one young salesman patiently spending the entire evening packing and unpacking a US$3,500 carry-on bag, just to show how it should be done. But as we heard constantly throughout this incredibly worthwhile ILTM, experiences are more important than ever. Note: next ILTM Asia Pacific, same venue, is 27–30 May 2019.
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, by the way, not only hosted the pre-ILTM Forum but also the party that followed for over a thousand on the swimming pool. Yes, I GOT THAT RIGHT. The hotel uniquely has a plexiglass pool cover, made in Guangzhou, that holds over a thousand, plus vehicles and, that night, a lion dance and dozens of food stations. Really, this hotel is outstanding. It is superlative, by all world standards.
For ILTM, the hotel had 300 arrivals, most on the same day, and it made every one of those travel industry people feel special. For first-timers, it must have been double wow. For me, coming back yet again to this unique 608-room hotel, it was wow as always. Look at the art, for instance; there are over 4,000 modern works, including pieces by Chihuly, Hockney, Stella and Warhol.
The hotel is unique for many reasons. For a start, the 32-floor structure has a massive hole through it, to let good spirits through and bad spirits out. Its porte cochère is a mother-of-pearl umbrella. Its lobby shines with marble, which extends down the 50 curved steps to meeting areas (where ILTM’s opening Forum was held) and on down to the pool at the base, covered over for one of the most memorable parties for 1,000 that I have ever been to. Down there, too, is the 24/7 Technogym, with lots of fresh fruit. I was lucky enough to spend time, as well, in the ocean-themed spa, designed by SPIN. Enter past a guard of honour of eight marine-blue glass sculptures and, as you walk along to the treatment room, a marine-blue light glows from the walls.
And of course La Mer, the products the spa uses, just feels the best. But some would say everything is the best here. (It was amusing to see at least one of the top media people staying here during ILTM having breakfast here, in the 32nd-floor club, before going out to an official breakfast at another hotel.) One night I even dined in the club before a drinks function elsewhere, and, honestly, sautéed eel with wok-fried greens was a healthy and memorable snack, with a glass of St Hallett Barossa 2016 Gamekeeper’s Shiraz from the eight-bottle oenotheque machine. Sheila Benzon, who runs the club, has a team of 12 and every day they go through arrivals and, as if they were all IBM Watsons, memorise names and how to pronounce them.
Somehow this filters through to the entire 560-strong team; even bellmen call you by name. Somehow, too, the hotel operates on staff turnover that is just over half of the Singapore norm. This is a luxury hotel that runs as smoothly and efficiently as the Berlin Philharmonic, with oodles of practice, but also spontaneity, and, just as any good orchestra needs a first-class conductor, so The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia works because of its GM, Peter Mainguy. He has time for everyone and makes them all feel special. For me, for instance, he even came in an hour early supposedly for breakfast, though he only had a cappuccino. I, like everyone, felt really special. And that amazing view helps, of course.
Lead image: The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore pool