Luxury hotels that get better have listened to what pundits on luxury are saying. Merely doing a good job in today’s frenetic world is seen as failure; you must do better than good, you must exceed expectation and be sensational. That is what the gal found during this year’s ILTM. With the Martinez – which will re-open March 2018 as one of Hyatt’s Unbound hotels – and what was the Noga-Hilton having gone through name changes along the way to its current J.W. Marriott status, there are only two iconic hotels currently open on Cannes’ famous Croisette. The Majestic, owned by the Barrière group, is closest to the Palais des Festivals, home of ILTM, and it rolled out the red carpet, and a red animal as welcome.
Super little ‘mushroom’ bites
Pierre-Louis Renou, the indefatigable boss of the Majestic, somehow seemed able to greet people checking in, and if he was otherwise engaged one of his team came out to say goodbye. I was actually greeted on arrival by Isabelle, who has been at the hotel at least a couple of decades, and, oh so French, she is just as chic as Mme Macron (how DO they do it? I wish there had been time to try the hotel’s Diane Barrière spa but at least I could use its LifeFitness gym, now 24/7 (thank you M. Renou, better and better, for success). I also made use the staircase, above. The food, by the way, is superb, with Pierre Gagnaire’s hand definitely visible in the quality of breakfast goods – adore the yoghurts. This is also one venue that knows how to do cocktail food beautifully, and if they do it right and consumers like what they see, who cares if every function seems to include little ‘mushrooms’ with tomato tops?
Food to order
I had them at a party in the indoor Majestic Beach Club hosted by Tout’France, who last year did such an unmemorable and expensive event in a draughty, cold castle up in the mountains somewhere. Yes, this is another example of better than ever. I tasted yet more Majestic mushrooms at the Taj party in a hotel salon, where Taj’s Chief Commercial Officer Chinmai Sharma explained such new happenings as Taj Exotica in the Maldives, opening next month. Le Cheval Blanc’s CEO Erik Boonstoppel hosted his usual sumptuous silver and white cocktail in the hotel’s rooftop suite, complete with lots of bubbles and silver horse-shaped balloons. And Pierre-Louis Renou, of course, through his annual party for local hotel friends and top travel advisors – he does the same, he says, for the opening and closing of the Cannes Film Festival, with CCTV throughout so everyone can see who is coming and which names to remember.
Nathalie Vranken, Pierre-Louis Renou
For his ILTM party, this clever luxury hotelier made this year’s even more magnificent. A small number were invited to the pre-disco buffet, which did, indeed, have more mushroom shapes but also tables of oysters – with shuckers, tables of magnificent cheeses, and as well as unlimited Vranken’s Diamant Brut there were such bespoke cocktails as a Bloody Majestic, namely Polugar vodka, sake, yellow tomato juice, Thai basil, celery salt and a lemon twist, Menton naturally. By the time the disco crowd arrived there were 2,000 at the party, which took over the entire ground floor of the hotel. The host escorted the co-owner of Vranken, Nathalie Vranken, and stayed until the music was turned off at 1 a.m: his team miraculously returned the hotel to its pristine state, breakfast opened 6.30, Renou was gliding between packed tables by 7.45 a.m. Everyone still seemed to be smiling, perhaps in the knowledge that the day after ILTM finishes, there is a mammoth staff party – I hope they too have those divine mushrooms – and then the hotel closes, for its annual holiday, reopening just in time for New Year. NOW SEE ROOM 343, BELOW
Maria was the latest hurricane to have Turks & Caicos in its path, but, as Travel+Leisure reported October 3rd, 2017, luxury hotels were quickly back in business. In fact, says the gal the islands had suffered more damage from Hurricane Irma, with some additional setbacks in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria. But of course luxury hotels saw business cancelled.
Good for Matthew Upchurch, Chairman/CEO of Virtuoso, who went ahead with his family trip to Grace Bay Club. While they were there the Upchurch kids helped hotel staff repair a local school – see the photos, above and to the left, of this volunteering effort (Clay Upchurch, in the photo above, later told his father that when he grew up this would be his favourite teenage photo).
Volunteering, helping others, is a growing satisfaction for luxury travellers. Nikheel Advani, MD of the Grace Bay company, plans, quite regularly, bespoke opportunities for guests wanting to help others. This is a luxury resort that is looking ahead.
Even on the last day of that luxury hotels’ marathon, the three different events of ILTM Cannes were super-impactful, says the gal. On top of nonstop meetings 9-12 and 2-5 every day it was hosted breakfast(s), lunch and evening things. Tuesday was the official party, Wednesday dozens of cocktails, Thursday was wondering how to get everything in the suitcase. But there had to be a moment to recap news coming in, nonstop.
Relais’ wall of books
Rosewood announces a forthcoming 132-room hotel in Munich – and a new lifestyle brand, KHOS • Bordeaux-based Stéphane Tillement launches winepaths.com, the Michelin for wine tourism • Hilton Luxury’s John Vanderslice nabs Peter Bowling to run Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills – oh that Vanderslice, who obviously loves rooftop parties, jolly cold here in Cannes, could fly us all to Beverly Hills to that gorgeous rooftop • And new airlift continues to boost destinations: Air France’s Paris CDG-Marrakech has helped occupancy rise 23% at La Mamounia, MD Pierre Jochem (also, Qatar flies from Doha, helping transit Chinese business, no visas needed): now what will British Airways’ nonstop to Mahe, from March 24th, do for Seychelles?
One of the man Majestic parties
John Conway continues as Bahamas GM The Ocean Club, evolving from One&Only to Four Seasons: Four Seasons also manages the owner’s equally legendary, seasonal, Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat (GM François-Regis Simon). 17 acres of Jean Mus-designed grounds, green parrots flitting in and out of the Aleppo pines that provide an umbrella over outdoor dining terraces, but lunch down by the heated seawater infinity pool, where Pierre Gruneberg teaches swimming, as he has since 1950. Try the Pinto-designed, 2,300 sq ft Penthouse Suite • Mallorca’s Belmond La Residencia, GM Ulisses Marreiros, has additional highest-level suites, say #82, plunge pool, looking across to Deia (take a Tuesday escorted walk to some of the village’s 50 working artists, mostly Americans or Brits): donkey picnics, tennis, tabletennis, cycling, and onsite art lessons • Gerald Van Reck, GM Buddha-Bar Hotel Paris – one of over 650 Preferred properties worldwide – complements such artistic-wows as the entrance’s 75 red lanterns, and a Sophia Loren blow-up of the wall of suite #202 with pop-ups that may turn the courtyard into an alpine chalet or Japanese sushi hang-out • Paris courtyard hotels maximise appeal – you never know what Claudio Ceccherelli’ll devise at Park Hyatt Vendôme • At Raffles Royal Monceau, GM Aaron Kaupp’s current winter wonderland includes four alpine ski chalets, sponsors Fusalp and Veuve Clicquot) • Courtyard-less, Mandarin Oriental Geneva GM Lars Wagner once again turns his café into a woodlined chalet, complete with dirndls and raclette • At Sunrise Kempinski, an hour from Beijing, GM Brice Pean offers world-class jazz in May, a Tottenham Hotspur soccer clinic (5-18 year olds) in July, and, year-round, land, or Bell-47 helicopter trips to, or over, Mutianyu, the ‘real Great Wall’: his boutique hotels, 10-19 rooms, fully staffed, with presidential suites, 80-ft pools, cinemas, ideal for small meetings or family groups • Families love Halekulani, just outside Honolulu, great beaches, dining, space: under CEO Peter Shaindlin, Halekulani’s now building a resort on Okinawa • Cayman’s Kimpton Seafire, GM Steven Andre, seemingly brings ocean, sand inside (a whole Cat Boat, Miss Ola, hangs from the lobby ceiling, designer Powerstrip Studio): there are 16 Ocean Suites, 1,700 sq ft, eat tortillas feet in sand.
Six Senses signpost
Why no hotel names among judges for top-digital Digiday awards coming up? Seems like real-name influencers attract social. Watch bystanders capturing Marie-France van Damme easy-wear SJP-Sex and the City clothes in her new Peninsula Beverly Hills boutique (GM Offer Nissenbaum’s brother Ronen’s now ceo Dan Hotels) • Hugo Boss’ great-grandsons Dominik and Jochen Holy co-own the 70-brands OUTLETCITY METZINGEN in Baden-Württemberg (30 minutes from Stuttgart, an hour from Baden-Baden, two hours Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich) – the pair plan two new-build hotels • Gstaad Palace, Owner/GM Andrea Scherz, has inhouse De Grisogono, Polo Ralph Lauren; family-friendly activities, snow, summer sun (overnight high above the treeline at the 1786 Walig Hut, keeping warm, helped by a glass of Ticino red, under the bed’s fur throws) • Will more retail join Armani, Bulgari and now Karl Lagerfeld into running, or at least patronising, hotels? Spain’s mammoth El Corte Inglés group, however, takes another direction. Its Viajes el Corte Inglés/ ECI Travel adds MICE programmes for Canada and the USA, and Portugal and Spain • Lagerfeld, who some think doesn’t personally like Christmas, has nonetheless designed a stunning upside-down tree for Claridge’s, GM Paul Jackson – Claridge’s has a cookbook, and own-label bespoke gin • When Lagerfeld’s in Tokyo, discusses French history with Park Hyatt Tokyo GM Hervé Mazella – #12 corner suites give bathtub views of Mount Fuji, Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay (at the 52nd floor New York Grill admire, and perhaps buy, the 65-layered Damascene-pattern steak knives, from Seki, home of sword-making) • Look over Tokyo Bay, too, from Hamarikyu Gardens-facing rooms at Conrad Tokyo (GM Neil McInnes): 40% repeat business, great public transport location, and the 37th floor Club lounge has working fire, and on-duty chef • In Japan, April 30th, 2019, the day after his father’s abdication, Crown Prince Naruhito becomes Emperor • Andaz Tokyo is so popular that local Millennials line up ages before Saturday’s 3pm checkin for weekend staycation, GM Ross Cooper – the rooftop offers not only a wedding chapel but an eight-seat sushi bar • Tokyo Station Hotel, GM Hiroshi Fujisaki, is ideal for Japan’s outstanding rail network (the 150-room heritage building dates back to 1915).
Legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire
Pierre Gagnaire’s one of the most-respected global chefs – he adds, Capella Shanghai (as CEO, expect Nicholas Clayton to take this brand forward big-time, with Ubud next, then Bangkok • Wolfgang Puck’s a big name in Los Angeles – his portfolio of restaurants include those at Dorchester Collection’s Bel-Air, and the Richard Meier-designed CUT at Four Seasons’ Beverly Wilshire • In London, Puck’s CUT is at 45 Park Lane, GM John Scanlon – it’s 20 yards from its famous sibling, The Dorchester, new GM/RVP is returned-Englishman Robert Whitfield • The Eden Rome’s refit actually shows how the Dorchester Collection thinks outside-the-box: room count down to 98, GM Luca Virgilio, designers Bruno Moinard and Patrick Jouin, a new garden restaurant, with aged olive tree, adjacent to rooftop fine dining (Vatican views!), serious Citterio-Technogym and a Farmacia Profumo Santa Maria Novella, and Sonya Dakar, spa • At the Citterio-designed Bulgari Hotel London (GM Kostas Sfaltos) – five minutes to both Harrods and Harvey Nichols – the restaurant’s unsurprisingly Italian, Rivea, by Alain Ducasse.
Matthias Winkler, left; Reiner Heilmann
Soneva’s Sonu Shivdasani invented chocolate factories at his resorts: now, in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi, which has a on-site glass studio, cook with molten glass (no, we do not know how – ask Sonu). At Soneva Kiri, there’s a new table-for-two, offering a five-course menu, all mushrooms, in a cave hidden by foliage. At Soneva Jani, waterslides going directly from over-water villas with retractable roofs apparently continue to go viral • Hotel Sacher Wien (GM Reiner Heilmann) has Time to Chocolate for spa, and bathrooms – choose a Rochon-designed new-build seventh floor terrace suite overlooking the Opera (so close you feel you can touch it) and book ahead to join local diners in the hotel’s Rote Bar • The Imperial New Delhi (GM Vijay Wanchoo), designed by Lutyens as part of the 1931 city plan, has subterranean squash and white-marbled wellness, walls discreetly embellished with inlaid precious stones – don’t miss an above-ground 19th century Anglo-Indian art tour • The Negresco, a unique five-floor eclectic art-house (Niki de St Phalle, Rodin, Vaserely), has bellmen in hunting gear, Michelin dining, best views over Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, GM Pierre Bord • Home of Tiepolos and more, at Cavalieri Rome (Waldorf Astoria, GM Alessandro Cabella) the Petronius Suite, just redesigned by Studio Papiri, can be extended to 4,400 sq ft – and why not take a Veuve Clicquot picnic into its park?
Claudia and Eric Favre, left, and Onno and Alexa Poortier
Massimo and Chiara Ferragamo’s Rosewood-managed Castiglion del Bosco, GM Davide Bertilaccio in UNESCO-listed Val d’Orcia Natural Park has 17/18th century updated farmhouses, sleeping maximum 12 – 4,200-acre vineyards, golf • At The Alpina Gstaad, GM Eric Favre, private helicopter flight to Glacier 3000’s Refuge L’Espace restaurant, fly around the Matterhorn • Joanne Selby, GM Sun International’s Sunlux Table Bay at The Waterfront, offers foraging for indigenous Cape Town plants to be used for dinner • Six Senses’ energetic CEO Neil Jacobs is having the time of his professional life – he’s preparing for Bhutan, Fiji, India and Israel • The Setai, Tel Aviv, opens January, in this vibrant city’s bustling Jaffa area: the Nacacche family (who also co-own The Setai, Miami Beach) have here converted the former governor’s mansion, and some 13th century ruins – GM Bruno de Schuytek, rooftop pool, 150 rooms with stunning views, the 1,200 sq ft Presidential Suite has all-wall windows • An adaptation of seven historic Amsterdam canal houses, The Pulitzer GM Alex van Gastel, has themed suites (the 700 sq ft Book Collectors Suite has books framing its main door): a 1909 slipper boat plies canals from 5pm daily • Music-lovers head for Luxury Collection’s Hotel Imperial, GM Mario Habicher, for proximity to Vienna’s Opera House and a piano partnership with Bösendorfer (= in-hotel concerts): Elizabeth Suites have 18-foot ceilings, damask walls and gorgeous art – check Winterhalter’s Franz Joseph on the stairwell, one foot ‘moves’, like Mona Lisa’s eyes.
Conrad New York, Sol LeWitt
By contrast, Conrad New York, GM Marlene Poynder, a futuristic Hudson River-set building surrounded by designer retail and restaurants, stresses mod-US art, including an 800 sq ft Sol LeWitt, Loopy Doopy, all blues • LeWitt’s same-sized lobby-set piece at Park Hyatt Zurich, GM Benno Geruschkat, is seven-hued Wavy Colour Bands • Beach Miami, MD Milton Sgarbi, bedrooms have third taps, for triple-filtered water (or buy minibars’ water, bottled in paper cartons, or Champagne). The hotel’s Field Report newspaper has instructions on turning pages into paper pots for seedlings
Ayman Gharib, left, and Peter French
Starwood Capital’s Baccarat brand may so far only have its launch New York property, but MD Hermann Elger promise expansion, soon. Baccarat glassware, and, for suites, free blow-dries • Raffles Dubai, GM Ayman Gharib, is a hit with families, and shopaholics (Wafi Mall’s next door): Raffles Istanbul, GM Christian Hirt, is part of mixed-use Zorlu Center – Raffles Singapore, new GM Christian Westbeld, closes this month, to open its Alexandra Champalimaud new-look in July • Sir Stamford Raffles’ descendant Sam Stamford Galsworthy created Suntory’s Sipsmith gin – gin’s it, worldwide: New York’s stylishly re-designed Barclay InterContinental, MD Hervé Houdré, has over 90 labels in its lobby bar-lounge.
Samuel Porreca, left, and Bruno Papaleo
In Chiang Mai, Dhara Dhevi’s Royal Villa spreads over 20,000 sq ft (well, it’s six individual villas, sharing three private swimming pools). Overall, 12,000 antiques and, easier to count, 350 priceless floor rugs, GM Wichai Chonlahan • And great views: Palazzo Manfredi , GM Bruno Papaleo, is closest to Rome’s renovated Colosseum – four newly-added, 600 sq ft suites have glass walls facing that monument • At Jing’An Shangri-La West Shanghai, GM Marco Vazzoler, the 55th floor Horizon Club lounge is designed by André Fu (he also did the hotel’s really-popular Summer Palace restaurant, try its dim sum). Corinthia London is UltraTravel‘s best hotel worldwide (GM Thomas Kochs): at Hilton’s newly-relaunched Trafalgar St James (GM Joanne Taylor-Stagg), on the south of Trafalgar Square, find a club-like lower floor living room, a Mediterranean restaurant, and, ideal for summer, a rooftop bar with retractable canopy (in about three years, this’ll have a sibling, when Admiralty Arch, literally straddling The Mall, opens as Waldorf Astoria) • Ten minutes’ walk east of Trafalgar Square, One Aldwych, led once again by Simon Hirst, repositions – you’re theatre-land, next to Covent Garden • La Réserve Genève is only 15 minutes from its city centre – take its free Moscato Privato, speeding across the lake (book the standalone 4,000 sq ft three-bedroom, glass-walled villa, right water-side): there’s a serious spa, and typical Jacques Garcia colour. CEO Jean-Luc Naret • Michele Bonan has done Ori Kafri’s JK Place Firenze – ask GM Claudio Meli, author of JK Essential Guide to Florence, about best restaurants: Bonan’s also decorated JK Place Capri, a favourite courting venue of Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux • Pat King, CEO Dublin-based Doyle Collection, re-launched The Bloomsbury, London, last month, Martin Brudnizki interiors • Martin Brudnizki’s also done Langham London’s phenomenally successful new pub, The Wigmore, fish’n chips and a pint, three minutes from Oxford Circus – celebrity Parisien mixologist Remy Savage now heads adjacent Artesian bar. MD Bob van den Oord, who took 15 ILTM agents round London in Minis enroute to Cannes, helped Langham’s Simon Manning co-host Travel+Leisure‘s pink party last night (and at 11 a.m. the pair had ‘Skype-attended’ CEO Bob Warman’s Hongkong leaving party).
Matthew and Jessica Upchurch
And then the luxury hoteliers and other ILTM enthusiasts scattered worldwide – for Christmas, New Year and to clear up after all that ILTM data input. Matthew and Jessica Upchurch are taking their lovely family volunteering for a week, in Central America, while a Rome GM wonders what to do with a top ILTM buyer descending on him for New Year. The astute have, like me, already marked their dairies for ILTM Asia Pacific, Singapore, May 21-24, 2018, and Cannes, ILTM, December 3-7, 2018. The marvellous B-Network had all logistics in hand. A woman in the uniform royal blue scarf (and much more) handed me a helicopter ticket, I was driven to Heli-Monaco, put in a chopper and flown direct to Nice airport. Leave in style. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW