Gostelow Report Live – ILTM Asia, day three

The Bund, in olden days

The Bund, in olden days

There are over nine million weddings in Mainland China every year. Some rush to Seoul to get married, or at least have photos taken – iWedding handles thousands a year, attracted by gangnam, sophisticated fashion and make-up (‘I always wanted to come, after watching South Korean television’ says bridegroom Chen Jingjing, his face gleaming with liquid foundation, his eyebrows already contoured). The city’s luxury hotels will be augmented by a 317-room Four Seasons, GM Lubosh Barta, opening this September – among other touchpoints, he says, will be mixologists from Proof & Co (think Singapore Regent’s Manhattan Bar).

• Established sibling Four Seasons Prague awaits Hainan Airlines’ direct Beijing-Prague flights launching this Autumn. Talk to GM Rene Beauchamp about the hotel’s new-look, by Pierre-Yves Rochon. The four-room Presidential Suite has especially lovely views of the Charles Bridge and Vltava River, and up to Prague Castle. The importance of ILTM Asia is shown by busy-busy President Four Seasons Asia-Pacific Mike Crawford, who came to tour the show and meet hosted buyers and media.

• Sir Rocco Forte is also in town, and yesterday he signed his first Asia hotel – a 300-room Rocco Forte hotel will open here in Shanghai in 2018, on the top 15 floors of a 52-floor block in historic Xuhui Riverside (West Bund).

• Charles Morris, the very-English GM of 150-room Hotel Villa Magna, Madrid, pushes shopping in his area of Paseo de la Castellana – there are over 600 boutiques in walking distance, plus an El Corte Ingles in Calle Goya.

• El Corte Ingles Department Stores, throughout Portugal and Spain, have the best collection of luxury brands in southern Europe, but you can buy anything from bottled water through to a genuine Picasso – and there is 10% tax refund for international visitors. Flagship of the family-owned company is the Madrid store, the size of 13 soccer pitches. All stores have multilingual concierges on hand 10am to 10pm, seven days a week. (Question for all the exhibitors here at ILTM Asia, including airlines and hotel megabrands that have millions of loyalty card holders, do you send them cards on their birthdays? That was one of the many touchpoints for which El Corte Ingles Chairman, Isidoro Alvarez, who sadly died September 14, 2014, was renowned – and El Corte Ingles, The English Cut, has, wait for it, 11 million cardholders.)

• Want to shop Bangkok? Head for Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok (new GM Samir Wildemann), adjacent to Want to shop Bangkok? Head for Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok (new GM Samir Wildemann), adjacent to the Paragon mall, with 40 restaurants. But try modern Thai at the hotel’s own exquisite Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin – and, another tip, stay in one of the hotel’s cabana rooms, say duplex 35 (you can literally swim from your private terrace off into a five-foot canal winding round the frangipanescented gardens).

• Kempinski’s new sibling, NUO, has sponsored the ILTM Asia app: the launch hotel, NUO Beijing opens tomorrow, Friday June 5th. International travellers will experience Chinese authenticity without sacrificing international luxury. The breathtaking lobby and its contemporary art gallery are overseen by Wuhan-born Zeng Fanzhi – his work is recognisable by avantgarde masks. All 438 rooms have F8 air purification that filters up to 90% of PM 2.5 particles (the Club lounge is on the 25th floor). NUO Spa features Huangdi Neijing traditional Chinese medicine, and NUO Green organic farms produce farm-to-table cuisine.Someone asked NUO GM Adrian Rudin, drinking coffee at his stand on the upper level of the hall if he is stressed. Oh no, we are all ready for opening, no problem, with a smile. He expects NUO to expand overseas, say Bangkok, Dubai, Rome and two more key European destinations.

• Hurun Report’s Rupert Hoogewerf says he has never, in 16 years in China, seen such wealth creation as in 2014 – typical age group of new-wealth is 39-42. Zhou Gunfei is the world’s most successful businesswoman (she makes front panels for iPhones). The charming and chic Susie Wang (who produces LED revolving billboards) called in on ILTM enroute to her daughter’s wedding, today, in Okinawa. Ultra HNW Chinese typically made four overseas trips in 2014, spending a total of 33 days away. Australia retains top destination, followed by France, the Maldives and Dubai, but Japan is top for food and shopping. Peninsula is top hotel brand.

• Peninsula’s Rob Cheng has launched printed PenCities by LUXE City Guides: the eight-fold handbag-sized guides are easy-read, so useful – here are latest ideas for sightseeing, shopping, and dining out. Other new company initiatives include Peninsula wellness, and healthy food is one of the feel better components, together with genuine temple massages and yoga, that Peninsula will first unveil at The Peninsula Bangkok. Rainy Chan, GM The Peninsula Hong Kong meanwhile, is enhancing the hotel’s deserved reputation as the arbiter of taste: watch her more closely integrate retail and staying in this fabulous hotel. In the Windy City it is business as usual as The Peninsula Chicago refreshes rooms, adding 11-language in-house signage, free global telephone calls.

• News of views. At Taj Tashi Thimphu, look out at stunning mountains (GM Sibi Mathew let slip that owner Dasho Wangchuk Dorji is doing a second hotel, on 28 acres in Punakha): for UK passport holders, fly into Bhutan via Bangkok or Singapore to avoid getting an India visa.

• At Hotel Metropol Moscow, GM Dominique Godat, some rooms look into Red Square, three minutes away – this classic 363-roomer, built 1903 for financier Savva Mamontov,is now owned, like the Azimut brand, by international realtor Alexander Klyachin.

• At NIZUC, GM Louis Daniel, overlook Riviera Maya’s Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – new offerings include a scuba-dive clinic, and snorkelling at the underwater museum.

• Talking of water, on the Small Luxury Hotels of the World stand, Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux, has a new year-round indoor pool in a glass and 18th century wood building: food photographer Mathilde de l’Ecotais has enlarged, 20 times, an image of a fugu fish for the pool’s base.

• There is masses of water at Le Cheval Blanc Randhelli in the Maldives, which now has two other private islands, one for the four-room Owner’s Villa, and another for tennis (Jim Courrier is trainer, says GM Renato Chizzola, a former manager of The World).

• Switzerland Tourism has a lot of powerful players here. Mark Meier represents Lucerne Tourism, and his near-neighbour is Steve Nikolov, promoting Bürgenstock, the multi-hotel historic resort high up above Lucerne and the lake. Bürgenstock, where Audrey Hepburn married Mel Ferrer in 1954, re-opens 2017 after a zillion-dollar rebuild by its Qatari owners – yes, it will still have its historic wedding chapel, and a ten-minute private funicular up from the lake far below, but new enhancements include a stunning spa. Nikolov is also marketing Royal Savoy Hotel in Lausanne; the 196-room lake-side hotel opens this summer.

• Géraldine Henchoz is selling the city of Geneva, which calls itself the birthplace of the Swiss Watch Industry – and, yes, there are watch tours. Best photograph opportunities are with the Jet d’Eau in the background in Lac Leman: it powers 500 litres of water per second to a height of 140 metres at up to 124 miles per hour.

• LeCrans Hotel, in Crans-Montana, is two hours from Geneva – its 14 bedrooms are themed for mountain peaks, say Atlas, Kilimanjaro, Rocky Mountain. GM Paola Masciulli says yes, come here for skiing but also golf and all mountain summer sports, and shopping, and simply looking out at over 40 surrounding peaks all over 4,000 metres high.

• Fredi Michel says, by contrast, that Davos Klosters, known for its World Economic Forum and Swiss Alpine Marathon, is the Wild West (sorry, east) of Switzerland. Chinese skiers are already discovering the destination and he is sure Davos Klosters Active will now attract summer business: every Monday through Friday there are free family and other sports activities, and local transport is also complimentary – arrange it when you get to your hotel.

• Arrive at Aman Tokyo in a man-borne rickshaw. At Amanjiwan, says GM Ian White, a pre-dawn hike for sunrise over Borobudur is followed by a traditional pony-and-trap ride to riverside breakfast picnic.

• What transport will the still-anonymous Dominican Republic Aman (opening November, GM Albert Mertz), have?

• Take the train to stunning InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu, a striking modern update of an 18th century beauty overlooking the port (yes, the new extended TGV line whisks you straight there, from Paris, or London). London InterContinental Park Lane, by the way, now has some of Europe’s most lovely flower displays: there are flowers on IHG’s stand here, led, as always, by that gracious professional, Gillian Greenwood • Good for Hyatt: it has introduced a hint of Old Shanghai into its stand, which had four glorious golden chandeliers.

• LUX* should be applauded for originality – the Kelly Hoppen-designed LUX* Belle Mare, Mauritius, has turned its front desk into the Café LUX* coffee stand, with beans roasting in what was back office (and red London telephone boxes give free telephone calls, worldwide). What will CEO Paul Jones come up with next?

• Le Bristol, Paris, a pride of the Oetker Collection, consistently wins all kinds of ‘best’ awards. GM Didier Le Calvez truly understands the warmth of hospitality. This is French chic, as seen in the couture suits worn by reception agents. It is also fun – behind the bar, mirrors can turn into megatelevision screens at the press of a button. You have renowned Michelin three-star dining from chef Eric Fréchon at L’Epicure, or more casual eating – generally surrounded by recognisable Big Name Parisians – at 114 Faubourg. The 188-room hotel’s 90th birthday is this year being celebrated in true Roaring Twenties style. La Prairie Spa holds an open day, September 20th, 2015.

• At The Ritz-Carlton Chengdu (GM Chris Clark), do make sure you have access to the 39th floor Club – not only is it 24-hours, with a live chef at meal times, but it is run by the ultra-stylish Lisa Liu, fresh from Dubai (Atlantis and Burj Al Arab). Another tip, book a concierge for a guided tour of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, two hours total, and back at the hotel, you are immediately presented with a framed photo, you in front of the pandas – yes, the concierge has surreptitiously emailed it back to colleagues.

• The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna – on the Vienna Tourism stand – is a conversion of the 1860s-vintage Erste Bank on Schubertring. Pauline Bergé says the 150th anniversary means a package with a souvenir jewellery piece in the shape of the Ringstrasse, as it is called. Try the spa’s anti-cellulite Guerlain Slimming Ritual, or a facial stretching Guerlain Beauty Lift (after that, summer only, head 27 steps up from the top floor to the rooftop bar, for skyline views of this beautiful city).

• Here, in Shanghai, Portman Ritz-Carlton’s 43rd floor Club lounge is the ILTM networking hub – by next ILTM Asia, says GM Derek Flint, Shanghai’s top afternoon tea chef William Wong will be performing in what will be a new lobby lounge.

• Dilmah Tea is owned by the Fernando family, who are into lots of things. Malik Fernando says whale-watching is on the agenda at Cape Weligama, on a 100-foot headland near Galle, with nothing between you and the South Pole. All 40 rooms, minimum size 1,500 sq ft, have private pools, plus a mammoth 20-ft shared infinity pool wraps around to give sensational sunrise and sunset views. Andrew Taylor teaches tea planting in the Tea & Sea package, which includes a 30-minute seaplane flight to the Adams Peak holy mountain – and as well as touring nearby plantations, have tea-leaf treatment in the spa.

• Dolder Grand Resort, high above Zurich, is renowned for many things, including its Norman Foster-designed curlicue extensions, and stunning art (one amusing corrugated card, by Finland’s Jani Leinonen, says ‘Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stole all my stuff’). Dolder’s Matthias Käsweber is thrilled about the spa’s Beauty, Relax, Vitality or Detox offerings, and about Oral Detoxication and Chelation Therapy at the Medical
Wellness Center. On the culinary front, this year’s THE EPICURE, September 17-20, 2015, includes Hotel Okura Amsterdam’s Onno Kokmejer and Masanori Tomikawa, plus Christoph Rüffer, Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg, and 2013 World Cocktail Champion Spain, David Rios. At any time, borrow a free BMW convertible or SUV X5 to explore the locale.

• Fairmont Monte Carlo introduces Bastien Gonzalez, the footcare genius who makes you feel sky-high (after a ski accident necessitated a career change, the Parisien has dedicated to making sure all his disciples are full trained in podiatry, leg massage and pedicure – plus French charm). Staying in this hotel cantilevered over the ocean is akin to a premium suite in a luxury cruise ship, but here you have a Nobu restaurant into the bargain – and, during the annual Grand Prix, bow-tied GM Xavier Rugeroni, a one-time motorbiker supreme, adds a pop-up Billionaires’ Club, by Flavio Briatore.

And so, a few spots of rain have not dampened what has been another truly golden event. The gongs kept on resounding much too soon. We needed lots more time as there are still more titillating experiences to discover – well done, ILTM senior director Alison Gilmore and your team, for such a fabulous ILTM Asia. See you here May 30-June 2, 2016, and at other world ILTMs, www.iltm.com.