ILTM Day 2: Hilton, Kempinski, SLH, Virtuoso, Bhutan and More

Our London correspondent, Emily Goldfischer, is on site at ILTM in Cannes, France this week and has dispatched the following report from a very busy day yesterday, meeting with luxury travel executives and advisors:

Day two was literally non-stop starting with a 7:45 am breakfast call from Hilton, whose representatives brought in celebrated chef Sally Abe from the Pem restaurant at the Conrad London to prepare truffled eggs. It was a much needed sustenance for the day! 

Dino Michael, the SVP/global head of Hilton Luxury Brands shared that the company has been busy this year opening 12 luxury properties, from Tulum to Nashville to Sardinia, plus several LXR resorts in the Middle East. Expect another 10 -plus new hotels and resorts to open in 2023 including Waldorf properties in London and New York. Michael said Hilton Luxury has forged new partnerships with Aesop soaps and Frette linens. 

Key trends he’s seeing: A strong desire for wellness, sophisticated food and beverage, and authentic cultural experiences. Demand for Japan and Australia has exploded since those countries reopened, said Michael.

The morning was filled with press conferences; here are some highlights: 

Kempinski CEO Bernold Schroeder provided a quick update. Founded in 1897 Kempinski is the oldest luxury hotel company with European roots; it now has 82 hotels in 35 countries. The company has 20 new hotels in development around the world. It’s taken over the former Ritz-Carlton in Cancun and is transforming it into a Kempinksi. The company also opened a 250-room property in Tel Aviv this year. That new hotel has a penthouse on the top floor with a private pool. Most rooms have water views with floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel is doing so well that Kempinski is looking to add more hotels in Israel, likely resort properties. 

At the famous Kempinski Cirigan Palace in Istambul, all the guestrooms have been redone, next up will be the suites and lobby.  Schroeder said he is quite proud that Kempinski was named one of the best employers by Forbes, thanks to its strong emphasis on continual training (employees get 150-200 hours of training annually). Currently, it has some 20,000 employees from 185 countries. 

Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch shared research and trends showing that business is booming. Virtuoso is expanding its footprint by bringing on travel advisors from around the globe; Upchurch said 46 percent of Virtuoso advisors are not from the US and that number is growing. 

The luxury leisure sector is very robust. For example, hotel rates are off the charts for Italy next summer…and already filling up.  Upchurch cited a combination of the unprecedented wealth created during the pandemic and the “carpe diem” mindset that luxury travelers have today.  Upchurch is very bullish on the future of luxury travel given that Baby Boomers are in good health; the last will be turning 60 in 2024. He is predicting many will be active for at least another two decades and will want to travel, all that combined with a generation of Millennials and Gen Zs who already consider traveling a part of their lifestyle.  

Upchurch added that there are also more people around the world with money who want to travel, and that consumers from all markets and life stages are trading up. The next big thing he predicts: anticipatory service, an idea explained in the new book, Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara, the former owner of 11 Madison Park.

Marian Walsh, VP of communications for Minor Hotels says the company now has 530 hotels in 56 countries under eight brands.  
During the pandemic it added a private luxury riverboat cruise in Bangkok where you can hire a local professor to explain the history of the region. There are now “Jungle Bubbles” that you can sleep in at the Anantara Golden Triangle. There’s also new train service in Vietnam from Anantara Hoi An to Quyhon. With just 12 seats it is a new and very luxe way to see two areas of the country.  

There have also been many updates to Minor Hotels' resorts in the Maldives, including adding more larger villas for families. Minor Hotels has also opened Anantara hotels in Amsterdam, Budapest, Dublin and Rome. New hotels are planned for Bali, Thailand and even nearby in Nice. Anantara is a brand to watch and consider for luxury clients, if you don’t know it already. 

One of the most exciting presentations was from Carissa Nimah, chief marketing officer for the Tourism Council for Bhutan, which is attending ILTM as part of a big governmental strategy to attract more responsible tourism. If you don’t know Bhutan, it is the tiny country high in the Himalayas that is more than 70 percent covered with forest and nature reserves. The country has a fascinating history and culture, too with more than 153 festivals, lots of artisan crafts, interesting art, architecture and a burgeoning culinary scene. Bhutan is also known as a place for personal and spiritual discovery. The country is focused on growing responsibly. In June, it raised the Bhutan Sustainable Development Fee from $65 to $200 per person per day. (There are discounts for children).

Neil Jacobs from Six Senses presented after Bhutan, and mentioned the company has several lodges in that country and has been offering experiences there for years. Six Senses, which is now part of IHG, is also growing, with new locations in London and Rome coming online soon. Resorts are planned for the Maldives and Saudi Arabia. Six Senses is very eco-conscious, having removed all plastic from its properties in 2022. The company is now focused on doing more events and festivals to connect their guests with the locales they are staying in.

Last but not least was the exciting new cruise company, Explora Journeys. Chris Austin, chief sales officer, spoke about the new category they are creating by spending 3.5 Billion Euros on six ships currently being built in Italy. Ships have fewer than 500 suites and all are being built with sustainability in mind. Another big difference is that these ships will stay in ports longer to all guests to really experience the destinations. Explora plans to be a “curator of journeys, not a cruise line,” said Austin. The first ship will debut in July of 2023.  

Evening Buzz:  Small Luxury Hotels hosted a packed cocktail party; 69 SLH hotels have come to ILTM this year. The association has new hotels in Nassau, Hungary and Portugal. It’s also launched the “Considerate Collection” this year, these are properties that focus on sustainability and regenerative travel. SLH has partnered with Weeva, which helps hotels measure sustainable efforts. 

Aman hosted cocktails at the chic Dior Boutique in Cannes.  We caught up with communications director Letitia Pardo of the Amanzoe in Greece, which is popular with Americans; 50 percent of its business is from the U.S.  Amanzoe added a new two-bedroom villa to the property, which is in Porto Heli. The resort was also one of the settings for the Knives Out sequel (in theaters now) starring Daniel Craig. And, since everyone asks, the hotel was not damaged in the wildfires this past summer. For 2023, the hotel is working on some new F&B concepts, including an Italian and a Greek BBQ experience. 

Chase picks up the tab: On Monday night at The Bar Galerie du Fouquet at the Majestic Hotel, Chase hosted a special surprise moment for patrons as they received their bar bill–only to realize that their tabs had been paid! The newly formed Travel Group has been on site this week at ILTM.

Related Articles

ILTM On-Site: LHW, Navigatr, Hyatt News; IHG Launches New Regent

Ignacio Maza Talks Creating Sophisticated Travel Itineraries

Signature Travel Network Adds 139 New Partners In 2022

Jumeirah Group Names Aaron Kaupp Regional VP, GM of New Resort