Well, goodness knows what the Vikings ate or drank but according to the annual rendez-vous of Relais & Chateaux in Copenhagen this week, the diet might well have included seemingly endless Taittinger, lots of M. Chapoutier wines, and foods that are mostly better eaten in the fingers. According to the group entertaining at Relais’ Viking Night, there should also be fighting and lots of singing. It was an amazing evening – see above – and people sat on furs on benchs that stretched more than 50 metres.
The following morning was back to business. Relais has grown from a gathering of eight culinarians in Paris in 1954, meeting because they wanted to discuss paying for a shared advertisement. It has grown to be not-for-profit association of 580 individual properties (it is run by 120 professionals, mostly in Paris). It’s impressive how well organised it all is. Every member property is part of one of 20 regional delegations, each run by a delegate who is continually in touch with head office. Both the President, Laurent Gardinier, and the CEO, Anthony Torkington, are real people-people and, together, they have visited 15 of the delegations in the last 12 months.
The floor heard very encouraging average room rate figures for today compared with the last four years – in general, Boomers’ spend is not rising but that of Millennials and Gen-Z definitely is. Looking at trends, it was anticipated that airlift pricing and availability might impact some destinations, especially insular. Various top management urged all members to benchmark with Apple, Chanel, Dior and Hermès and stick to convictions. Relais’ pillars are cuisine, locale, preserving the environment, experiences and connections, personalised hospitality, community and family. Relais’ new website entices engagement: social media following is up 13.4% on last year, impressions are up 60%, and engagement is up 65%. The second edition of Relais’ hard-copy Travel Book is just out, with the third edition timed for 2025.
There were awards, all sponsored by beverage companies – S. Pellgrino awarded Rising Chef to Zazu, in Ecuador. Sustainability (Duval-Leroy) went to Canada’s Wickaninnish Inn, Welcome (Moët) was Granada’s Calabash. Unique Luxury’s long-time talent director Anita Bower was honoured as an amazing woman (Pommery).