ILTM Africa, in Cape Town, April 26-28, 2014, was bigger, better and even more optimistic than a year ago (ILTM is International Luxury Travel Market, THE leading venue for sellers, and buyers, of real luxury travel experiences). Reed Events’ Alison Gilmore had put together a really useful opening forum for the 82 sellers – luxury hotels, yachts, private jets and so on – and the 82 hosted buyers (travel agents, from all over the world). The media panel should be studied by PRs everywhere. Maria Shollenbarger, Financial Times and Conde Nast Traveler USA; Divia Thani, Conde Nast Traveller India, and Steve Bleach, Sunday Times UK, all basically said the same. Give’em the hard facts as far ahead as possible.
The Forum was moderated by Alex Granger, a svelte comedian as well as a brilliant orator, as was the overview-speaker, Justice Malala, a local television pundit. He interspersed hilarious but relevant slides, as shown, with hard facts about what is good, and what could be better, about South Africa. But ILTM Africa is not one country but the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. After the forum, one-to-one meetings, 4,414 of them in all, introduced, say, a Lake Kariba private yacht to a travel agent from Moscow, and Raffles Praslin, Seychelles, to an agent from south of San Francisco. These meetings, by the way, are computer-generated speed-dating. Fifteen minutes to get to know each other, then five minutes rest.
But everyone agrees this is invaluable investment, in time as well as money. Media had concurrent programmes. @luxetiffany (social media queen Tiffany Dowd, from Boston), Crea’s Satomi Kurabayashi, from Tokyo, and CNT China’s Circle Fang went swimming with sharks, in cages of course. All were invited, by the new SunLux Collection, for cocktails on a boat, no sharks this time, followed by drinks at Table Bay Hotel, run by one of the snazziest hoteliers in the world, Sherwin Banda. He had brought in singer P.J. Powers who sure belted it out, and got servers, and some guests, to dance it out, too.
Another evening, Royal Portfolio, headed by Paul and Liz Biden, hosted drinks at One Above. What on earth is this? As of two weeks ago, Royal Portfolio took over marketing, and management, of the amazing penthouse suites on top of One&Only Cape Town. These suites have been privately owned, from the start, but until now they were part of the hotel’s letting pool. Now they are completely separate, although those staying in them have full use of the hotel’s facilities. Stay in One Above, and you have a total of 15,000 sq ft of airy space, like a big art-filled glass house floating over the city. Three bedrooms, two pools, what more do you want?
Liz Biden ran fashion label Jenny Button until she felt she wanted a change of direction. Somehow hotels evolved – La Residence, a converted Franschhoek pear farm, is a favourite of Ivanka Trump’s. Now, Royal Portfolio is evolving into private villas and suites, though how Liz Biden can find other places as breath-taking as One Above is hard to imagine. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, meetings one-to-one went on and on. Kempinski showed off its growing number of hotels in the region – it already has Nairobi, by year end it will have added, in order, Kinshasa, Kigali, Djibloho/Ovala and Accra…
Africa is becoming flavour of the year with Americans, especially, but even the Chinese are beginning to come. More and more luxury hotels are opening up, but they need not only the staff but also the levels of service that top-spending travellers want. Some countries, notably, sadly, South Africa, are making it difficult to bring in international specialists to help train locals, which would create immediate and knock-on employment (President Zuma tightened immigration work permit policy on April 1st, 2014). Meanwhile, ILTM Africa ran and ran, a total success – so, all of you luxury people, make sure the 2015 event, April 15-17, Cape Town, is in your diary NOW.