ILTM Day 2: Booking Pattern Trends and Sustainability Initiatives

Luxury Travel Advisor is on site at ILTM in Cannes, France this week and had yet another very busy day Tuesday, meeting with luxury travel executives and advisors. Here's what you need to know:

Day 2 started early, with a cheerful, pink-hued Langham-sponsored breakfast on the beach. CEO Bob Van den Oord was introduced by Afar Editor-in-Chief Julia Cosgrove, who spoke about “authentic” being the word of the year by Merriam-Webster dictionary and how applicable this was for travel at the moment. It was also a theme that Van den Oord stressed in his description of Langham, which “celebrates the everyday.” He has been with the company for 25 years—though is just about 100 days into his tenure as CEO—and is proud to see how the company has grown to 32 hotels on four continents, also noting it has 12 hotels in the pipeline. Most exciting: The Murano property outside of Venice, which is costing €1.2 million per room to build and will bring added luxury to Venice.

Over breakfast, Van den Oord shared the stage with Michele Grosso, MD, Langham Boston, and Shelly Tso, VP, marketing and communications, in a panel moderated by Cosgrove about the brand. Topics of note: A hard press into sustainability using Earthcheck; engaging guests through storytelling; and partnerships. Examples of new partnerships include working with Netflix on "Five Star Chefs," which resulted in a pop-up for the winner that sold out for months, and a master class Afternoon Tea collab with legendary shoe designer Jimmy Choo at The Langham Gold Coast in Australia. Other exciting culinary news: Celebrated French chef Jean-François Piège will bring his Mimosa restaurant to London for the first time.

Bob Van den Ooord, CEO, Langham Hotels & Resorts
Bob Van den Ooord, CEO, Langham Hotels & Resorts (Photo by Emily Goldfischer)

Press conferences this year highlighted achievements across the board; here are some highlights:

From Qatar, His Excellency Saad Ali Al Kharji, minister of tourism, noted the country was named “2023 Arab Tourism Capital of the Year” thanks to the success of the FIFA World Cup. The country is now building on this tourism momentum; it saw 3.7 million visitors this year and is aiming for 4 million in 2024. He stressed that Qatar is the safest country in the Middle East and it is benefiting from increased air access. New attractions include the world’s tallest water slide and an outpost of Le Printemps, now the biggest luxury department store in the Middle East. The country is positioning itself as “the ultimate stopover.”

The Peninsula: Openings in London, Istanbul; Renovation in New York

The Peninsula London_Grand Premier Park Room
The Peninsula London's Grand Premier Park Room (The Peninsula London)

At a cost of over £1 billion and 30 years in the making, the 190-room London property has certainly made a splash, according to The Peninsula Hotels' Carson Glover, VP of communications. Same in Istanbul, where the 177-room property is four distinct buildings (three historic towers plus a glossy new-build) offering amazing views of the city from across the Bosphorus. These openings bring the total number of Peninsula hotels to 12. Big news is the planned renovation in New York will begin in January and finish by September.  Expect a completely refreshed room product, very modern with lots of new tech, plus an overhaul of all the public spaces and a new Pen Top cocktail bar on the top floor. In terms of exciting activities, look to Paris where Peninsula’s Pen Academy will offer an exclusive package with the famed Le Mans race. The Pen Academy is proving very popular with guests in cities around the world with ultimate experiences, ranging from art to sports.

COMO Opens in the Dolomites, Singapore

COMO Hotels and Resorts, another small luxury brand that is currently in the midst of a growth spurt, will open the Como Alpina Dolomites this week in Val Gardena on the Alpe di Siusi, one of Europe’s largest high-altitude plateaus and the largest ski area on the continent. The resort is ski-in/out with 60 rooms and suites and a COMO Shambhala Retreat with an expansive wellness program and facilities that includes a 72-foot indoor pool, a 23-foot outdoor pool, sauna, relaxation zones, a fitness center and a beauty sanctuary.  Plus, there are four restaurants and lots of outdoor spaces to enjoy the views.

In September, COMO opened its first hotel in Singapore, where the company is headquartered. The property sits within COMO Orchard, the brand’s new concept combining hospitality, lifestyle and fashion under one roof and spread across 19 floors on Singapore’s Bideford Road. The hotel portion has 156 rooms and suites over 11 floors, a rooftop pool bar for guests, as well as full floors for dining, including a patisserie from celebrated French pastry chef Cedric Grolet, which saw lines around the block on opening day. A 9,000-square-foot Shambhala spa facility is on the fourth floor, offering comprehensive wellness.

Preferred Reveals New Hotels, Beyond Green Survey

Preferred Hotels & Resorts CEO Lindsey Ueberroth
Preferred Hotels & Resorts CEO Lindsey Ueberroth (Photo by Emily Goldfischer)

Preferred Hotels & Resorts CEO Lindsey Ueberroth had lots of exciting new openings to announce. The brand added 38 new hotels in 2023 in exciting destinations from Croatia to Singapore, with more coming. Look for a further 14 new luxury openings from December 2023 and throughout 2024. Some highlights:

  • MOLLIE Aspen, opening in time for ski season, is a 68-room boutique hotel with a rooftop spa pool and terrace bar with mountain views, plus a fitness room, boutique shop, and a vibrant food and beverage scene with indoor and outdoor seating in the restaurant and lobby cafe. 
  • Grand Velas Boutique Los Cabos is launching January 2024 as "an adults-only coastal sanctuary" with 79 suites, many with private terraces and plunge pools. 
  • Ara Maris Sorrento, launching March 2024, will have 49 rooms with balconies, offering views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Top digs: The Meraviglia Suite, situated on the rooftop of the hotel, boasting an expansive private terrace complete with a Jacuzzi and 180-degree views.

Ueberroth, however, was most excited about the progress of Beyond Green, its collection of eco-conscious properties that undergo a rigorous sustainability check. There are now 38 properties in Beyond Green, and it have just released its first-ever Global Impact Report underscoring the brand’s commitment to sustainability and the effect of its member portfolio’s worldwide ESG initiatives. The report, available online at

Highlights from the report include:

  • Over 90 percent of Beyond Green members have a dedicated Sustainability Manager or equivalent position or team, steering the evolution and on-site implementation of member’s sustainability programs.
  • 100 percent of Beyond Green members have eliminated single-use plastic water bottles from their operations.
  • Nearly 70 percent of Beyond Green members utilize renewable energy sources, including solar panels, wind turbines and other sources such as biomass derived from certified wood pellets.

Lindblad Expeditions: You Can Now Fly to Antarctica

Penguins in Antarctica
Flights to Antarctica make expedition cruises and even easier option for travelers. (Photodynamic/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Lindblad Expeditions CEO Sven Lindblad explained that while expedition travel is trendy right now, his company has been doing it since 1969—as the pioneers of travel to Antarctica and many other places. The cruise line has 17 ships, more than 120 itineraries and over 550 annual departures. He is most proud of the fact that the company has partnered with National Geographic for the last 17 years to provide science-rich programming on its cruises, and has just extended this to 2040.

Big news is that you no longer need to cruise through the Drake Passage to get to Antarctica. Thanks to improvements in flying technology, 88 percent flights currently fly on the scheduled day. Perfect “for people that don’t have the time for long voyages or are afraid of rough seas crossing the Drake Passage,” he noted. 

The company is quite eco-conscious, as well, and Linblad expressed his own concern: “We have been carbon neutral since 2019, we invest $4 million a year in education on climate change, but tourism is a double-edged sword. While it brings economic prosperity, it does impact the environment.”

Virtuoso: Booking Trends for 2024

Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch shared research and trends showing that the luxury travel agency network, which did more than $30 billion in annual sales last year, is seeing. Overall, he noted that the pandemic has been “the biggest slingshot for travel. And this has been helped by the aging population, where two-thirds of people over 65 are not only still alive, but in good health and have the time and money to travel.”

According to Virtuoso data, holiday bookings are up 19.7 percent vs 2022 and sales are up 16.8 percent, which means the rate has been a bit sticky, and we may see a leveling off this year. Despite geopolitical instability, bookings for 2024 are looking robust.  He noted the most popular destinations for U.S. travelers are Italy, Greece, France, Croatia and England.

Corinthia Hotels to Nearly Double in Size

The Corinthia luxury hotel brand has been based in Malta for the last 61 years, slowly growing to nine properties—but that’s about to change. At the final ILTM press conference of  the day, CEO Simon Naudi announced plans for eight new hotels in major markets, with three openings planned for 2024. First up is Corinthia Rome, a conversion of a seven-story building that was built in 1914 as the Bank of Italy. The restoration has maintained the original façade overlooking the Parliament of Italy, while the interiors are being converted into 60 guestrooms, including 21 themed luxury suites, a lobby lounge, bar and restaurant, as well as a spa, gym, open-air central courtyard and a rooftop lounge with city views. Acclaimed Chef Carlo Cracco will conceive and develop the food and beverage.

Across the pond, Corinthia is planning to enter the New York City market with a complete revamp of The Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side. The 16-story building will have 70 guestrooms, 30 suites and 14 residences, which draw inspiration from the hotel's history and surroundings. Four Signature suites will be inspired by the bridges of Central Park and the restaurant will be an outpost of Miami favorite, Casa Tua.

The final opening for the year is Corinthia Brussels, a conversion of the Grand Hotel Astoria, originally built in 1909 at the behest of King Leopold II. This landmark building served as a grand meeting place for kings, dignitaries and world personalities. Acquired by Corinthia Hotels in 2016, the property is currently undergoing extensive redevelopment but, once completed, will comprise 125 bedrooms and suites and will open by the fall.

Also in the pipeline for Corinthia: Bucharest, Qatar, Gewan Island, Qatar, Oasis, Malta, Riyadh and the Maldives.

Evening Parties for Four Seasons, Regent and Kempinski

Alejandro Reynal,President & CEO, Four Seasons
Alejandro Reynal, president and CEO, Four Seasons (Photo by Emily Goldfischer)

There were too many evening parties to attend, so we hit the Four Seasons event with CEO Alejandro Reynal. He addressed the group, sharing that he has been in the CEO role for about a year, and has spent his time visiting 55 properties and meeting the teams.  “Four Seasons is going from strength to strength [and] I am here to develop the vision to keep the company on that path.” He noted 2023 is the best year on record, surpassing 2022, and that the company has top ratings for brand and guest satisfaction, and it is focusing on investing in its employees and technology—particularly tech that can drive the culture of service through artificial intelligence. In 2024, look for six to eight openings in places like China, Osaka, Cabo, Morocco, Mallorca and Cartagena.

Regent Hotels & Resorts and IHG Hotels & Resorts won the "fun award," with a winter-themed fete at the Carlton Cannes, a Regent Hotel, complete with an ice rink and Olympic medalist Brian Boitano doing an impressive routine. Guests were invited to join him—and several did! The event was the idea of SVP, luxury, lifestyle and leisure brands for IHG, Jane Mackie. The even was super festive with holiday music, wintery drinks and food, and followed by more revelry in the penthouse suite. We chatted with area VP Patrick Both, who shared that IHG has 38 hotels in the pipeline for Thailand, mostly luxury.

Kempinski had a more intimate gathering, where we learned the company is revamping its Dresden, Germany, property for the first time in 28 years, according to Clemens Degenhardt, director of sales and marketing. The iconic hotel, which is located next to the Castle of Dresden, will reopen on February 16, 2024, with 211 rooms including 31 suites. He suggests booking now for next December, to enjoy the hotel and the most famous oldest Christmas market in Germany.

Stay tuned for more from ILTM.

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