Luxury Hotels

ILTM brings all luxury hoteliers worth their salt to Cannes

At Swire’s party, Marcel Thoma, Hervé Mazella

It’s that time again, ILTM Cannes time. Oh My Goodness, with over 5,000 people associated in one way or another with luxury hotels. Those who were not there missed out on the essential annual event in luxury hospitality. From December 3-6, Cannes was ‘taken over’.  You can read the business details on HOT NEWS, here to the right.  But let us look away from transactions.  The parties started on the Sunday night, December 2nd. Swire Hotels’ House Collective held an open house, in a seventh floor rue d’Antibes apartment they had taken for the week: clever move, in the gal’s short time there she ran into lots of GMs, and Nihi Managing Partner James McBride and Remote Lands’ Co-Founder Catherine Heald, who organises all Aman’s private jet tours.

Binod Chaudhary, Puneet Chhatwal

And then came Monday, and Taj CEO Puneet Chhatwal met up with Binod Chaudhary, who had flown in specially from Nepal. Monday was the opening Forum, this year themed for health and wellness. Over 3,000 crammed into the Palais des Festivals theatre to hear speakers who included Six Senses’ Anna Bjurstam and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner and we all came away feeling much better. Some then went to the Tout France party, boules included, inside on the Majestic-Barrière beach. Tuesday was the real party day, however: Marriott Luxury Brands took over the Californie restaurant for the week. Jumeirah puts it name on the most elegant of the yachts moored next to the Palais (Como Hotels, and the City of Milan, also had boats). Cheval Blanc, as always, threw a sumptuous cocktail in the most elegant of the Majestic’s suites, and IHG literally transformed La Côte at Carlton InterContinental Cannes – pop-down wood flooring and pop-up walls and Nathan Lump moderating a panel on luxury – at a ‘have a taste of Regent’ dinner.

Four Seasons’ gm line-up

Every day there were breakfasts and lunches as well.  Four Seasons cleverly transformed one rooftop into La Dolce Vita, with the incomparable Vito Mollica from Florence doing his unbeatable risotto. Kempinski cleverly did their own version, with their Berchtesgaden chef Ulrich Heimann cooking live at the rooftop of Five Seas Hotel. Later that day, Nobu, the hotels rather than the chef, threw a colourful beach party and I went on from there to Hyatt’s soirée, at their gorgeous newly-facelifted Martinez – to eat oysters and see every Hyatt GM imaginable. That night, too, the Majestic switched its usual mass-mass party to more elegance, half the guest list, and Leading co-hosted – despite the theatrical staging, everything was back to normal long before dawn.

Geoffrey Gelardi, Matthew Upchurch, Alison Gilmore

Of course every day the 1,800+ exhibitors, who stayed on their stands, had to present, every 20 minutes, to yet another of the 1,800+ buyers (travel advisors) who got their exercise moving three times an hour. They were kept going, all of them, by the fact that when it was all over, Thursday night, ILTM invited everyone to its usual hours-long party, Taittinger and revolving dance floor, back at the Majestic.  What a long, but also short, three days that seemed from the official start of ILTM 2018, with the Forum, and the presentation of the annual Mary Gostelow Award, this year presented by the 2017 recipient, Virtuoso Chairman/CEO Matthew Upchurch, to Geoffrey Gelardi, The Man Who Made The Lanesborough. NOW SEE LUCA ALLEGRI, MD THE EDEN, ROME, TALKING AT ILTM 2018 ON CHANGING LUXURY TRAVEL NEEDS

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Luxury Hotels

One&Only, a boat trip, and a floating restaurant

Michael Wale, Olivier Louis

It was the night before departure and all through the house, in this case the luxury One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai, complex, life went on as though nothing was happening.  This giant 65-acre resort used to be beachside looking out at the Gulf, and nothing else. Now thanks to the trillions spent in creating more land, The Palm and The World islands, sunsets have to share the picture with buildings. The gal was meeting up with Brit Michael Wale, recently arrived CEO of One&Only parent, Kerzner, and with Olivier Louis, the Frenchman who has masterminded this complex since it opened in 2002.

Palace lobby ceiling

For the first time, my room was in the Palace, connected to both the Arabian Court and the Residence (and yes, it was mind-taxing and I never did find the gym that is used by all three adjacent properties, but that was because my stubbornness stopped me either using a map or asking the way).  Palace end suite 537 was so comfortable it would have been tempting to stay put, but Michael Wale had arranged an evening out. First we had cocktails in the sand in the beach bar – I discovered the very agreeable taste of a Schooner, namely Belvedere Vodka with Limoncello.

Perfect pre-flight fare

Then we took the resort’s boat shuttle, a superior yacht that must surely be a twin of the transfer boat that One&Only Reethi Rah, in the Maldives, uses to go back and forth to Male International Airport.  Our destination, ten minutes’ away, was 101, a floating seafood restaurant on the dock of One&Only The Palm, the youngest (vintage 2010) in the One&Only quartet of hotels here in Dubai.  This is where I discovered, by the way, that the right seafood is perfect pre-flight fodder: next time at 101 I will once again go for Yannick Alléno’s tuna carpaccio followed by fresh squid-ink pasta topped with gold leaf.

Horses ‘guard’ the entrance

Michael Wale had just returned from gorilla watching at One&Only’s newest resort, in Rwanda (he admitted that when he started in the hotel business a few years ago he never dreamed he would one day have the honour of naming a baby-girl gorilla Paradiso, and he will be returning to see how she grows up).  He wants to grow the brand’s ‘nature’ properties, but he also wants to extend its luxury beach resorts, and go into city hotels and residences.  And then, a far cry from real-life endangered gorillas, he waved me off as a hotel car swept past the lifesize horse statues that grace the outside of One&Only’s The Palace, Dubai. THIS WAS OUR RESTAURANT SETTING


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Luxury Hotels

Staying at the Ultras’ best hotel in the world

Front view

What, honestly, is there left to say about Dubai’s iconic luxury Burj Al Arab resort? Actually, admits the gal, there is quite a lot.  Within the last few months there has been a brand new MD, Tony Costa, who has carefully listened, not rushed in too fast but, all the time, carefully thought what he will do to bring the 1999-vintage property up to the present (goodness, you might well say, do you mean the 202-key, all-suite hotel is not only coming up to its 20th birthday but is also last century?). Thanks to the unique exteriors and interiors, above, by Tom Wright, WS Atkins and John Cherrington, this is a truly timeless 28-floor structure.

Sunrise view, from 1111

But time passes.  I looked out of end suite 1111 across, at sunrise, to sibling resort Jumeirah Beach Hotel, just finished an interior upgrade (less sock-it-to-you, more subtle colours).  I looked down, to a party from Guangzhou or Guilin taking selfies outside ‘The Burj’. Even at the eternal site-of-style that is the Burj everything evolves. Two years ago a gigantic deck was floated here, from Finland, to add outdoor pools and lounging areas, cabanas and another restaurant.  Two months ago a camel was hired, on a part-time basis: three days a week he arrives, from his desert home, in the back of an open truck to give rides across the Burj’s approach bridge, hotel guests only (consensus, clever marketing plus brilliant photo opportunities).

Jumeirah CEO José Silva

There is more to come, but neither Tony Costa nor his boss, CEO of Jumeirah José Silva, is giving anything away.  Both believe that actions are more vital than words and both, crucially, belong to that small group of luxury hoteliers who truly understand that luxury, with its endless myriad of details, ultimately makes money (this is the opposite of the a growing industry global norm, by the way, which sadly tends to see short term profits, partly accrued through cutting luxury at every corner).  At Burj Al Arab, which will attain 68% average occupancy this year, 40x% of guests are repeaters, who tend to stay about seven nights, versus first-timers’ three nights.

New event space

This is Dubai’s luxury hotel that weathers any downturn, and the current over-supply of rooms has no effect here.  This is also the venue for such big global events as the annual Ultras, held for the first time in Dubai on November 21st, 2018.  Why did they move here?  Well, Dubai is increasingly seen as the centre of world luxury travel, says the Ultras’ Chairman, Nick Perry.  As evidence of this, both he and Chris Hartley, CEO of the Ultras’ main sponsor, Global Hotel Alliance GHA, live in Dubai.  On that night, however, many other world players arranged, on purpose, to be in town, and showing how ‘the Burj’ evolves, the evening was launch for a brand new event space, that looks set to become one of Dubai’s hottest tickets. SEE SUITE 1111

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