There are memorable ways of arriving at luxury hotels. At Six Senses Zighy Bay on the tip of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, you can paraglide down, on the back of a professional sky-diver (your baggage goes separately, in a ground-based truck). At Capella Pedregal, in Cabo San Lucas, you drive through a private tunnel. At One&Only Reethi Rah, and many other Maldives resorts, you arrive by speedboat, or by seaplane on to a floating pontoon. Here in Cannes for the annual International Luxury Travel Market ILTM, the gal arrives by helicopter, all ready to face the crowds of luxury VIPs in town for this week.
Last night, back home (yes I do have one) I watched the sun set. Peace and quiet. It will not be peace and quiet for the next few days. Fortunately this is the world of luxury, and even arrival at the conference is as peaceful and quiet as I could wish. The plane arrives at Nice airport, a standing board invites ILTM’s participants, or at least the travel agents and others (of whom I am one) to make contact. Want to take the helicopter? asks a girl in black, with a turquoise scarf. You bet. She gives me a pink ticket, asks me to go to the Heli Monaco desk past customs.
Having taken passport details, someone ushers four of us to another part of the terminal, through security, into a minivan, drive to the other side of the airport, straight into a helicopter. Whirr into the air, at an angle of about 45 degrees. I am in the front seat, with a stunning view. Far below a powerboat rushes along. From above, all you really see is its white wake. I think of stomach-churning helicopter rides, over the edge of a volcano on Maui, and such peaceful rides as from Kuala Lumpur to Pangkor Laut, in YTL’s private chopper (its cream leather interior upholstered with the Yeo family’s coat of arms).
We head south-west, past Cagnes sur Mer and the gigantic white sculpture that is the Sophia-Antipolis residences. This is where one would head inland, if driving, to get up to St Paul de Vence, and Vence. We continue past Antibes and Cap d’Antibes, and Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, where I will be lunching tomorrow (it is owned by the Oetker family). We pass the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, now owned by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries via STT Properties, and I wonder if they still have swimming instructor Pierre Gruneberg).
The sad thing is that the entire chopper ride, Nice airport to Cannes, takes only eight minutes, and then it is another 20 minutes, thanks to the town’s traffic, before the people-mover gets me to Grand Hyatt Le Martinez, where I am staying this week. ILTM does an amazing job with allocating bedrooms. With nearly 1,500 travel agents and nearly 1,500 exhibitors, every room in town must be taken. Cannes has four or five such mega-events every year and this one, first week of December, is always the last on the calendar.
I look out of my window at Grand Hyatt Le Martinez and see another sunset. Twenty-four hours have passed but, as always, they have not been long enough… this will be a busy week.