ILTM Day 4: Bucket Lists Are Now To-Do Lists; Advisors' Reflections

Luxury Travel Advisor is on site at ILTM in Cannes, France and this is our final update on the daily news and press conferences. Day 4 started with a breakfast overlooking the Med, hosted by Marriott’s luxury group at the Milux Beach Club, part of the JW Marriott Cannes. 

In what has become its signature move, Marriott shared research shaping its strategy in luxury. Jenni Benzaquen, senior vice president of The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis Hotel & Resorts, presented data showing global wealth is up 40 percent, and the company sees strong demand for more luxury, new experiences and giving customers around the world something to dream about. 

“Nu-Luxury Frontiers” Boundary-Breaking  Escapes

“We are expanding the reaches of our portfolio to what we have coined ‘nu-luxury frontiers’—boundary-breaking escapes that combine guests’ desires for authenticity, adventure and exclusivity. We are consistently pushing the limits, to go beyond star ratings to offer truly transformative experiences and unbridled access,” noted Benzaquen. “While 2023 saw increased demand to revisit the beloved luxury destinations, guests are now focusing on new destinations, ethical escapes and a desire to champion social practices so that travel remains sustainable.”

Marriott has just marked a 500th property milestone, with The St. Regis Riyadh; the company’s luxury portfolio now spans 69 countries and territories with five new hotels slated to open in the final weeks of 2023. New markets for The Ritz-Carlton in 2023 included: Portland, OR, a debut for the brand in the Pacific Northwest; Melbourne, the tallest hotel in Australia; and Fukuoka in Japan. Overall, The Ritz-Carlton is in the midst of a brand overhaul to a more modern aesthetic to attract a younger audience.

A New Yacht and 24 New Hotels in 2024

Coasting off the success of Evrima, the company’s first branded yacht, a second is planned for 2024, Ilma, which will offer the highest ratio of space per guest at sea, with 224 suites (all with private terraces), plus five restaurants, six bars and a wine vault. “The yachts are attracting a new customer; 50 percent of our yacht guests have never been on a cruise, and they are 10 years younger than typical cruise passengers.”

Over 200 luxury hotels and resorts across Marriott’s luxury portfolio are in the global development pipeline, including 24 properties expected to open in 2024. Yet Benzaquen told the group, “demand continues to outpace supply and will continue to outpace growth for the next three years. Customers ‘bucket lists’ have become ‘to-do’ lists.” 

Soneva: New Opening for February 2024

Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and owner of Soneva, has focused on barefoot luxury since the opening of Soneva Fushi in the Maldives in 1995. Carbon neutral since 2012, Soneva is a pioneer for responsible tourism. The company now has three resorts—two in the Maldives and one in Thailand—and also operate Soneva in Aqua, a 75-foot yacht that can accommodate up to four adults and two children, and sails the Indian Ocean.

The big news is the opening of Soneva Secret in February 2024. Located in Haa Dhaalu, the Maldives’ most remote atoll, the resort has just 14 beach and overwater villas, including some only accessible by boat, and the Maldives' first floating villa. Other cool features: Rach villa has a roof that opens to reveal starry skies, plus services that include a dedicated Barefoot Guardian, Barefoot Assistant and a private chef. Guests will also be able to dine in “Out of This World," a castaway dining tower, observatory and wine cellar, reachable by zipline!

Minor Hotels: The Little-Known Big Hotel Company

Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel
Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel (Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel)

Probably the least familiar of the global hotel companies, Minor Hotels is expanding at a good clip into Europe, Asia and Africa, with 540 hotels in 56 countries. Minor’s luxury brands include Anantara, Tivoli and Elewana, a collection of 16 safari lodges. Vice President of Public Relations Marion Walsh-Hédouin highlighted some recent openings in Europe, Asia and Africa:

In Europe, this year the company opened the 52-room Anantara Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel, a 13th-century Capuchin convent built into the cliffs, just a few minutes from the Piazza del Duomo. The property has a cliffside restaurant and bar, spa, pool and panoramic gym, a chapel for weddings and even its own monk that shares stories about the history of the convent. Another iconic reinvention is the glam 151-room Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel, the oldest hotel in the city, which was refurbished by award-winning David Collins Studio in a contemporary style. Next year, look for the Anantara Palais Hansen Vienna, set within a listed palace on the famous Ringstrasse, the property (formerly a Kempinski) is currently undergoing renovations and will open in March or 2024 with 152 rooms and suites, a Michelin-star restaurant and an indoor swimming pool.

For an Asian getaway, the new Anantara Koh Yao Yai Resort & Villas sits on a lush island in the middle of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand, has 148 suites, pool villas and penthouses, and is located 45 minutes from Phuket and 20 minutes from Krabi by boat. Walsh-Hédouin described it as Thailand 30 years ago; Very quiet and designed the three sections, with two for families and a beach area for couples.

In Africa, the Anantara Kafue River Tented Camp will launch in 2025 in the Kafue National Park in Western Zambia, one of the largest reserves in Zambia. Suspended above the ground, the property will comprise 12 spacious tents, including a 6,500-square-foot Presidential Villa. The camp is bookended by two islands that will accommodate spa and wellness facilities, a swimming pool, bar, lounge and a traditional African boma.

The Dorchester Collection: London Refresh Completed; Getting Ready for Dubai

The Dorchester The Promenade
The Dorchester's Promenade (Photo by the Dorchester Collection)

The Dorchester GM Luca Virgilio shared that renovations to the guestrooms, lobby and some of the public spaces are complete. The theme is “English Garden” and there are six different color cheerful palettes for the guestrooms and suites. As for the lobby, the look is fresh, with the addition of the new Artists’ Bar sporting work from British artists, 80 percent of whom are female, surrounding Liberace’s mirrored piano that has musicians each night. There is also a new James Bond-themed Vesper Bar and a pretty Cake & Flowers shop by in-house florist Philip Hammond. The final touch is a renovation of the rooftop, happening in 2024.

In Dubai, the 225-room Lana, designed by the famed Foster + Partners, situated on the marina in the Business District with views of the Burj Khalifa, is finally opening February 1, 2024. The hotel will have three different Michelin-star chefs, including Mediterranean flavors by Jean Imbert, a Basque restaurant Jara by Martín Berasateguia and a patisserie by award-winning pastry chef Angelo Musa. The hotel will also have a rooftop infinity pool, a spa and a large fitness center. In 2028, the group will open a Dorchester in Tokyo. The 110-room hotel is being built in partnership with Mitsubishi as part of its new development of the tallest building in Japan.

Auberge Resorts Collection: New Event Series for 2024

Auberge Resorts Collection announced “An Extraordinary Year,” a series of experiences throughout 2024, offered across all 27 destinations, and “worthy of planning a trip around,” says Evan Altman, SVP of sales and marketing. Spanning epicurean journeys, well-being, art and culture, and adventure, these experiences and "once-in-a-lifetime" events are focused around exclusive partnerships.

Domaine des Etangs
Domaine des Etangs (Photo courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection)

Highlights include: A southwestern concert series of Nashville’s legendary songwriting performance venue, The Bluebird Cafe, at Bishop’s Lodge, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Santa Fe; sampling SingleThread Farms’ Michelin-starred menus at the luxurious Utah retreat, The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection; witnessing the 2024 total solar eclipse at Marisol Springs, courtesy of the Austin landmark mansion Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection; and exploring "radical self-care" with Sanctum’s global mindful movement for its first-ever U.S. appearance at the Napa Valley well-being destination, Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection.

The company added three hotels in 2023. The Bowie House in Fort Worth just opened last week; the 88-room property has an urban, contemporary southern vibe and houses 700 pieces of artwork from owner Jo Ellard’s personal collection. In France, the company added its first property, Domaine des Etangs, a 17-room retreat in Massignac, the southwestern countryside. Closer to the company’s roots, it added the 67-room Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, in Los Olivos, a small town in the Santa Ynez Valley, about 30 miles north and inland of Santa Barbara. In 2024, look for the 72-cottage resort on the Kiawah River in South Carolina, The Dunlin, and Collegio alla Querce, an exquisite cluster of "reimagined" 16th-century UNESCO buildings once serving as a cultural institution, preparatory school, chapel and theater in Florence, to be converted in to a property with 61 guestrooms, 20 suites and a 2,250-square-foot signature suite, plus a five-level Baroque garden and an outdoor pool. There are 27 hotels in the pipeline.

Advisors' Reflections on ILTM 2023

Erina Pindar, SmartFlyer, at ILTM
Erina Pindar, COO and MD, SmartFlyer (Photo by Emily Goldfischer)

As the conference wrapped up, we chatted with Erina Pindar, COO and Managing Partner at SmartFlyer, a luxury agency out of New York that brought about 25 advisors to Cannes. She found ILTM to be the busiest ever with a “terrific depth and breadth of partners represented and well organized in clusters for lifestyle and destination.”

Echoing what we heard from Marriott in the morning, Pindar noted that her clients are looking for the “ultimate bucket-list trips, but doing it in a more thoughtful and sustainable way.” Properties that caught her attention include Banyan Tree Escape in Buahan, Bali, which opened last year and Kisawa in Mozambique, located on a sanctuary of forest, beach and sand dunes on the tip of Benguerra Island. “While these are places I had heard about, I learned more about them at ILTM.” She also got an update on the current landscape of cities, noting that London and Rome have new openings and more on the horizon.

Other trends: She is seeing clients looking for slow travel options. “I’m excited about the revival of heritage brands like Orient-Express from Accor, bringing more train travel options that my clients find glamorous and romantic.” She is also seeing more interest in cruising on the small ships from Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and Explora, as well as river cruises on the Mekong and Amazon.

Vanessa McGovern, co-founder and chief sales and marketing officer, Gifted Travel Network, came to ILTM with 10 advisors. As part of the “Executive Track,” she secured meetings with CEOs from Langham Hotels & Resorts, Explora Cruises, and the chief commercial officers at Raffles, Accor and Pan Pacific. “Meetings like these help us with ongoing partnerships and create efficiencies.” She also appreciated the chance to meet with the media: “ILTM is a see and be seen event for luxury travel, which is great for GTN as a younger host agency to tell our story.”

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