Trip report December 2010, Cannes, ILTM (International Travel Leisure Market) conference.

December 5-14, 2010

International Travel Leisure market it is a premiere event in travel industry, by invitation only and provides an opportunity to connect and network with luxury worldwide travel suppliers, agents and tour operators. It takes place annually in December in Cannes in Film Festival Palace.  I’ve been honored to be invited in 2010 so I am looking forward returning to French Riviera.

We arrived Cannes December 5 after long flights and connections from Tampa to JFK to Paris CDG and finally to Nice. All flights were on time despite weather problems in Europe two days ago. In CDG we had short connection and as always, it was a mess. Walking from one terminal to another and trying to get into long line security. There were people trying to get into two flights departing in 20-30 minutes. Tried to explain it to the security guy in line. French passengers joined to translate. Security guy did not have any authority to get us in front of the line but he talked to supervisor and within few minutes someone with more authority emerged with said in French flight 9:15 and 9:30 follow me. Someone translated for us and we rushed to follow. So they opened separate security counter just for people on these flights departing soon. Makes sense, very efficient. At security check, not too much groping occurred as in US airports.

Plane had enough empty seats so I got 3 to myself and caught up 1 hr on my sleep. On arrival to Nice, ILTM people were waiting for arriving attendees. There was option of van transfer and helicopter. We opted for helicopter. I met my friend Lilian from NY but she went on van transfer. She told me it took 15 minutes. But in summer and other seasons it might take about 1 hour with traffic. I booked helicopter transfers before for my clients and now it was good to experience it myself. Flight took 10 minutes plus going through flight security check and taking car to and from helicopter field (included). Going through security, it was beeping all the time and they had to check me all over. That was ironically first time checked in, in all airports it was fast for me. I thought briefly that taking van would get me faster but it was worth the experience. It was very picturesque flight, even though the weather was cloudy.

I forgot to mention important part that our luggage did not arrive! I suspected it that it might be the case with short connection. We went to Air France luggage counter and filled paperwork. The agent assured me that luggage has been located and will be delivered to hotel today or tomorrow. We had 2 suitcases checked in. Usually I travel with one carryon but her on trade show I will have a lots of materials to bring back. Anyway not a big deal, minor annoyance and they issued a DL skymiles kit with necessities and one t-shirt and said if we need to buy something, it is covered under 100 eur per person. Not bad. On arrival home, I filed claim to Travel Guard insurance and they promptly refunded money for my purchases, which included cashmere sweater, hat , socks and some toiletries. Always recommended to take travel insurance!

The helicopter took two us and another 2 people and our luggage (actually sans luggage since all of the people only had carryons). The rest of conference arrival people already left.

We saw beautiful Riviera shoreline, yachts, beautiful houses and small islands and peninsulas of Cannes coast.  On arrival, the van took us to our hotel Palais Stephanie on Croisette seafront. It as Hilton years ago, then it was Sofitel , now independent hotel Palais Stephanie and in January it will be managed by Marriott. The lobby is nice modern decorated with pastel colors, contemporary furnishings. Many large paintings from film festival – stars – photos in black and white. We got a large Jr suite with bedroom, living room and 2 bathrooms. Very nice, too big for me. I kept looking for my things in different rooms. Good for families since it sleeps 4 people. Lots of closet spaces and 2 tvs, 2  safes, etc..

Monday December 6. Today is arrival day. We registered at the welcome desk at hotel and went for some shopping to compensate missing items. It was quite cold for us Floridians. The less expensive shops are located on Rue Antibes… Got cashmere sweater and hat at reasonable price. Went to waterfront, old town (Suquet). Nice views. There is restaurant Gavroche every time I take my photo in front of it when I go there, very pictureseque. We browsed antique market which takes place in old town every Monday. Got lunch at reasonable price in old town.

Back to hotel. Luggage arrived!

I went to next door hotel Carlton and using their free wi-fi in lobby with afternoon tea . Really nice hotel, reminds me Peninsula. Beaituful architecture outside, Belle Epoque. But I was told rooms were a bit outdated.

In the evening we attended opening session at Film Festival Palace. First there was presentation by magazine Economist about world status and how it effects world travel. Unlike US luxury trade shows, this one is worldwide and caters to different suppliers and markets. For example, Miami convention and visitors bureau and other US suppliers were after Asian, South American Markets. So it was different perspective. The presenter said that emerging world affluent travelers are now Chinese, Brazilian and Russians. Then it was panel about how demands of luxury (again, worldwide) travelers has been changed. The discussion was moderated by Conde Nast traveler editor and panelist were representatives from British Airways, Ritz Carlton and few travel agencies (Altour from USA, Black Tomato from Australia, Perez from Brasil, and Valerie Wilson travel from USA.). That was somewhat boring because most of them used regular corporate schpiel, nothing new. Then was another discussion with panelists from Emmar resorts, private jet charter Premiar CEO, Ted Teng – president of LHW, CEO of Virtuoso, and Chairman of Silversea cruises. Then it was question part. Some of the attendants including me were upset at luxury hotels charging travelers for internet. Really, for 1000 euro and up price per night, they could have added internet into rates.

Afterwards there was award presentation and one-to-one interview with International hotelier and tourism magnate Sol Kerzner from South Africa. He said he is 75 and not planning to retire.  We met Lilian and went for dinner. The food was very good and we talked to some ILTM attendees . It seems the convention took over the town. Otherwise not too many tourists in Cannes.

Tuesday December 7. Started trade show appointments. We split evenly with Michael 60 appointments each and I took Europe and he took region his is familiar with – Africa and regions we want to expand – India, Indian Ocean and more Asia. I overslept and ran without breakfast to my first appointment .

This is the best supplier representation I ever had. I met some companies which I never thought about services. For example, a company from Italy brought Rolls Royces and Ferraris into the show. What they do is provide travelers with experience of driving Ferrari in Italy (or any other luxury vehicle). There are traditional choices of being driven or drive yourself. However if some travelers do not want to navigate in infamiliar areas and do not want to bother of filling car with gas, etc… they provide 2 cars – one is Ferrari with a guide /driver who is leading the driving. Another car is with client who is following the guide. So you travel in two cars. They clean car for you overnight, fill in with gas, take care of parking , sightsee with client and take care of needs. Therefore you have a private tour and you drive Ferrari! Interesting concept.

I also got interesting contacts which I never thought about – Russian speaking tour operators in UK who serve Russians. I said my clientele is American and they said would be delighted working with me – either luxury or budget clients. Their prices were reasonable and seemed we understood each other.

I visited Russian 5* hotels and they were interested to host my travel agent group in 2011 for fam trip.

I also ventured out of comfort destination zone and had meetings with Seychelles Destination company and they said would be happy to host me to get familiar with destination. It is about 4 hr flight from Middle East with connection in Dubai on Emirates air. Michael got good suppliers in South Africa who said can arrange anything from safari to wine experience and meetings at the homes of local artists.

My former supplier friends from France “Atout France” had a big area and I visited some old friends, hotels, and they introduced me to new ones. I also got a new destination management company in Paris who can do most of France destination including Jewish clients and the rep was delightful young Russian woman who said will personally handle my requests.

Other hotel chains were well represent (LHW, SLH, Exclusive hotels, Starwood, Ritz Carlton). I got some conversations about securing preferred wholesalers rates. I visited hotel Burdigala in Bordeaux where I already booked some clients corporate clients, and to my delight, it is a privately owned hotel and owner wants to work with me direct rather than through impersonal hotel wholesale systems. She introduced me to local wine tour operator so Bordeaux is better covered now! I have clients waiting for quote at home.

Later on we had one hour session on Tourism Barcelona with tasty tapas.

In Spanish area, I got info from Paradores and few other Spanish Hotels.

In Italy, I met with representatives of young company in Tuscany who provides villas and unique experience in Florence and Tuscany, including Jewish Heritage tours, cooking classes, private art showing (for example, rent a museum), etc.. Very enthusiastic young people who can make anything happen in Florence and area. Including trips for cruise passengers.

I finished my appointments by 4pm , checked my emails, got few more contacts from other suppliers and went to hotel to refresh before 2 receptions.

One reception was at our hotel Palais Stephanie in Royal suite. I inspected it night before so we stayed on terrace talking to people. We’ve met a young fellow UK citizen living in Dubai who is working for a magazine I am not familiar with – travel magazine in Middle East which is distributed in lounges of business/first class passengers . He told us about experience of living in Dubai and their strange restrictions – you cannot live with a person are not married to. The police checks randomly. He also said unmarried bachelors are not allowed to live together. You can go to jail for breaking law or being deported. Strange attractions like skiing in Dubai, restrictions on drinking… The most which affected me was that Jews are not welcomed there and if you have Israeli stamp in your passport you will not be permitted. So that will influence me on what airline/city I will connect to fly to Asia through middle East – NO DUBAI AND Emirates airlines for me! Michael is meeting with Dubai people – show appointment and he’s been delegated to relay my statement to their tourism reps.

Later or we went to hotel Martinez party which had Indian theme. The food was cocktail appetizers, a lot’s of it – incredible variety and very tasteful. They had different rooms for different food . Besides Indian food, there was also area with raw oysters and seafood and separate dessert area. One had that tasty fruit selection (yum!) and chocolate fountain (tacky!). Separate miniature desserts, crepe suzette section. As for drinks, besides regular alcohol and soft drinks, there was a separate station with various fresh squeezed juices. I enjoyed looking at well dressed people and we concluded that leather pants look well on European women but not on American. And, why French and Italian women do not get fat? They seem to eat a lot’s of food. Also, I noticed that Russian women are very beautiful and well dressed and I guess they select them carefully for such PR work. Probably no equal opportunity there anymore…

Thursday December 9.

Last day at tradeshow. Now I am navigating better. Had productive meeting with 5* Hyatt Churchill in London rep who knows Jewish Travelers. We can book them still with my favorite UK supplier, and he said works with them as well. They understand Jewish traveler and can provide kosher food. Hotel has kosher kitchen. They have unfortunately electric key BUT have guest relations who will work with me on clients schedule to help them to come out and in and open doors for them. They will also will attempt their best to put them in lower floors on shabbat. Hotel is with walking distance to Marble Arch synagogue.

I had very good meeting with a very well established 30 years in business Greek tour operator and we were talking on hosting my travel agent group with 3 days cruise for next year. They also do Jewish Heritage tours.

Talked to more Russians. There was a new cruise line, Volga cruises. Something different from Viking and Uniworld (same old names). Will check them out.

We had a warm reception at stand of hotel Gamirasu in Cappadochia where we stayed last April. It is always nice to meet old friends. World is getting smaller..

After trade show, we refreshed and went to Martinez hotel to see Lilian and her collegaues where they are staying. Martinez hotel so far is the one of the best I’ve seen in Cannes. Carlton is also nice but rooms require renovation. I did not visit Majestic but I was told by people who stayed there it is also very nice.

We went to restaurant Pastis. We came late and they gave away our reservation. Had to wait 30 mins. It is is small bistro and was completely filled with ILTM attendees. It was very noisy. We finally got a table. Expensive wine ordered was not that good so we sent it back. The regular Bandol wine was fine and cost less. The service was awful, slow and I did not get potato au gratin I ordered with my meat. He told us they are out and offered mashed potatoes or vegetables. Opted for vegetables . Food whatever we got was very well prepared though.. Maybe it is better with other slow time and more attention but they were owherhelmed.

Friday, December 10.

Checked out from Palais Stephanie and went to our rented 1 bedroom apartment in Cannes rented through my guide and contact in Cannes, Jacques. Jacques came and drove us (few min) to apartment . great location, just behind Martinez. Basic staff, but it is cheap and we have kitchen and washer. Jacques prepared for us welcome back basket with fruit, olive oil, tapenade, honey and some jam. Very nice of him. He also gave us admission tickets to Monaco. Then we went with Jacques for a day tour of hill villages. Visited Mougins, Gourdon, Tourette sur loop, St. Paul De Vence and Eze. Went to modern art museum Foundation Maeght in St. Paul . Had lunch at St. Paul. Beautiful villages, sunny weather. We enjoyed it thoroughly. Back to Cannes. Got some supermarket shopping, went to neighboring sandwich shop, made contact with owner, got some drinks and got internet connection from them. Good busy day .

Saturday, December 11.

We rented a car from Europcar and got Puegot. We hooked it to our GPS and off to explore Riviera by car. Drove to Nice and spent a day there. It was easy with GPS while it worked but it got owherhelmed with memory (french maps?) and stopped. Nevertheless we visited Matisse Museum and Chagall Museum. Matisse is located in the beautiful mansion and it is a former home of the artist. It has some sculptures and not too many painting. I love Chagall Museum, and always linger there more. Now they have English audio guides so it is even better. Then we drove to see Russian Cathedral which was built by Russian nobles in last century. Afterwards went to Promenade Anglais to do some people watching. I tried to get to Negresco but they would not let me in!  We found with difficulty a parking space and walked to Promenade. I planned to eat at Old town remembering nice restaurants near Cours Saleys (sp?). But when we came there, it was all under construction. We ended up eating at small cafe – gnocchi in cream mushroom sauce. They served in small la Crusette pots. It was good. Walked back on Promenade Anglais and enjoyed people watching. There was an open air market and people were buying Christmas Tree.  Very festive.

We wanted to get to Cannes before dark so we rushed to our parked car and drove back. The GPS stopped functioning again but we made it to Croisette and only got a bit lost around our apartment but then got GPS working again. Ate dinner at small restaurant on Rue Antibes, excellent food. So far meals in France do not disappoint. The worse meal we had first day at Palais Stephanie (hotel food). We parked by our apartment (no fee for night) and went to sleep.

Sunday, December 12.

In the morning, we left for overnight trip to Monaco. It is a small mountainside country, principality of Monaco and a world in its own. We found our hotel Metropole and arrived without delay. It is one of the top hotels in Monaco, together with hotel Des Paris and Hermitage. Located next to Historic Casino. I got a good rate on it, but still splurged. I needed to experience it to be able to sell to my clients. The hotel sales manager I’ve met on a trade show, was kind enough to give me good rate including breakfast an they upgraded us to Jr. Suite. It is exquisite hotel, probably best I’ve ever stayed at.

We went to sightsee Monaco. We walked to the Rock and saw 10 km road foot race. Went to the port, enjoyed fair with food vendors, rides and holiday decorations. We walked up a lot’s of stairs to the Palace and got a great position for watching change of the guards. They we strolled to the old town and waterside promenade to the Oceanografic Museum. It had very good waterside aquairum in a wonderful building housed in a museum. There were also artifacts from the sea and models of the Grimaldi’s ships.

We took “le bus” – 1 euro per person to Jardin Exotique. Unfortunately many paths were closed but we managed to see Cactus collection and other succulants and other exotic plants along mountainside with beautiful views. Took bus back to hotel and checked into our beautiful jr suite. Internet is inlcuded! There was afternoon tea going in the parlor, but in about 20 minutes, we got sweets and water delivered to our room compliments of hotel’s manager. That was very nice gesture.

In the evening, we splurged for dinner at Yoshi, 1* Michelin star with signature chef Joel Robuchon. Japanese restaurant was terrific. The sampling menu had total 7 dishes from house appetizer to dessert. Main course black cod fish was amazing, very much tasted like seabass and was glazed with teriyaki sauce. Interesting custards/appetizers: egg in a broth, custard with some asian flavor with a hint of soy sauce, but not owherlheming, sushi and seviche. Desert was pannacota and small lime muffins. They also gave us a cake in a bag to go – a gift!

We enjoyed watching people around us. The clientele was international and their discussions on what art they bought for their chateaux… next table a elderly lady with many facelifts was demanding vegetable tempura but it was not on the menu, the staff ran around to get some vegetables. Few russian speaking clientele with very well behaved children..  A lot’s of expensive jewelry around.

After delicious dinner we headed to main casino but unfortunately, black jack dealers were on strike and only one available table was min 100 euro. We passed, saved some money. We stopped at beautiful lobby of hotel des Paris and took picture there so I would not wear my cocktail dress in vain. Then we went across the stree to American (plebean ) casino which only had slots. Not interesting. I usually do not play but I put 20 euro in slots and of course quickly lost it and left. People were not even dressed up in American casino.

We went to hotel to sleep. The suite had amazing shower with different jets spraying so I tested all sprays.  The interior design is beautiful, by famous world designer Jacques Garcia which designed interior in form of French Palace. This one was the first hotel I did not have to struggle with different lights, there is a display and put in writing which lights are on and off. Internet is free by the way (not sure if in suites only).

In the morning I woke up at 7am and saw beautiful sunrise view towards Casino and further to the sea. I ran to french balcony (we had two) and took nice pictures.

On arrival they ask you what newspaper you prefer and we asked for NY Times. But it was not delivered to hotel, so we got a letter with apology.

We went downstairs to restaurant for our Robuchon breakfast (37 euro per person, included in the rate). The difference with other hotel’s breakfast is that it is not buffet but they bring you buffet at the table. We got a plate of fruit for 2, a plate of cold cuts, smoked salmon and cheese for 2, pastries and cooked to order eggs. Plus coffee or tea and selection of juices. I opted for apricot and it was very good.

We picked British Guardian newspaper and went back to the room. After breakfast, we walked a little around hotel and casino and got back. We checked out and got our car.. It is funny how they quickly park cheap cars (like our Peugot). The expensive cars – Ferrari, Mazerati, Bentley are parked in driveway so they keep an eye on them. Not that there is a issue with car thefts. We were told that in Monaco there are 150 people for 1 cop and many undercover so crime is non-existent.

We drove back to Cannes. On the way we stopped at St. Jean Cap Ferrat and walked at this nice small town. Very nice views. We spent few hours ar Rotschild Villa at her garden. I always book my clients there. The gardens are beautiful. We bought bread and pastries at Boulangerie and drove to the Paloma Beach. Had picnic there but the beach now is not mantained. The town in fact was almost deserted.

But a lot’s of spaces to park!

We came back to Cannes via traffic – rush hour plus some road closing due to an accident.

Parked by apartment, I went to our new friend sandwich shop owner and got cheap but tasty sandwiches by Cannes standard – 5 euro a piece.. In the evening we had to sort brochures and partially pack.

December 13,  is last day in Cannnes which we decided to spend in town.

We finished our shopping at Gallerie Lafayette (make sure you get for VAT special form to get your refund in airport). We bought some food on the market and had lunch at apartment. Someone scratched our rental car so nice gentleman at neighboring Elite car, helped us to buff the scratch and asked next time rent from him! I really like Cannes and French people!

Still few years ago, I have bad experience with retuning car to airport, when they charged us $200 for a scratch even with CDW insurance, so we decided to drop it off at this day and asked Jacques to drive us to airport. We were lucky that lady at Europcar did not see any scratch and we were glad for avoiding one more night of free parking. Who knows how our car would look next day! We went to Malmaison mansion where was an exhibit from Russia about Russian paintings about nudes. It was nice and we saw “Three Graces”, well known painting. We stopped at cafe and chatted to the old lady next table who said she is originally from Poland and lives in France during the war. She is Jewish and all her family perished in holocaust. Was married to American so speaks good English. Good conversation but sad.

Then we walked in the port, went to La Suquet, ate more snacks in boulangeries. Some people in bakery recommended new restaurant and we went there. We had a very nice intimate dinner with good service and chatted with owner. It was a good way to finish our trip.

December 14, Jacques arrived promptly and took us to airport. More information on French living, condition of Jews in France, tax and politics and we arrived to airport, kissed Jacques goodbye, until we will talk again when I book my clients with him.

Flights were  comfortable enough again confusion in CDG but what’s new. The flight was a bit delayed but our flight from Atlanta to Tampa was also delayed. In addition, we had to see 1 hr on the plane for 1 hr flight before it departed since they de-iced the plane. Such is travel. Back at home until next adventure!

Thank you for reading by blog!

Disclaimer: this report presents just an opinion of individuals who’s been there…. Tastes Differ…

Please do not copy this itinerary. It is intense trip for travel professionals to explore and experience the country. We can design trip personally per each client’s interest, budget and energy level. We have a great team of colleagues to plan your trip and good prices for hotels.