On Site at ILTM: Hotel Companies Key in on Luxury Market

Despite cold, wet weather, luxury travel brands are bringing heat in Cannes for the 22nd edition of ILTM. The largest gathering ever with over 2,100 buyers from 83 countries and 2,100 exhibitors representing 330 brands, everyone spent Monday gearing up for over 82,000 official, pre-scheduled appointments taking place throughout the week. The vibe is definitely busy with a get-ready-to-hustle mindset all around.

Belmond Increases Train Offerings, Expands in Popular Markets

The first official event was hosted by Belmond, which planned a garden theme lunch that had to be brought indoors. Nevertheless, its “47 gardens and one-of-a-kind experiences are what guests most appreciate,” according to Arnaud Champenois, SVP brand and marketing, who addressed the crowd. Other themes the company is leaning into: Slow travel and sustainability (partnering with Earth Check), becoming even more of a curator of contemporary culture, and further expansion in popular markets.

Slow travel and train news: For the first time since the pandemic, the Eastern & Oriental Express, a Belmond Train is set to return in February 2024 with two seasonal routes out of Singapore that take in the landscapes of Malaysia. Other big Eastern & Oriental news: Chef André Chiang has been appointed to bring the style and skills of his two-Michelin-starred eponymous Restaurant André in Singapore to the rails. On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, A Belmond Train, Paris-to-Portofino will be a new journey option, which will continue at Splendido where the train’s chef, Jean Imbert, will host a Gala Dinner. Also new: A second Paris-to-Istanbul return journey, in addition to its regular August itinerary. The Royal Scotsman, A Belmond Train, Scotland, will add two new Grand Suites designed by Paris-based interior designer Tristan Auer in May 2024.

On the hotel front, Belmond is expanding in Mexico, adding Hacienda Katanchel, a property dating back to the 17th century and situated near Merida, Yucátan. It will open in 2027 with 35 suites after a full restoration. The acquisition of Katanchel, joins three other properties in the country: On the Caribbean coast, Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, Riviera Maya reopened in August 2023 following a complete renovation; Casa de Sierra Nevada, A Belmond Hotel, a former convent built in the 16th century in San Miguel de Allende; and on the Pacific Coast, Milaroca, A Belmond Hotel, Riviera Nayarit, a new build set to open in 2025.

Ximena Moreno, mixologist, Belmond
Ximena Moreno, a mixologist for Belmond (Photo by Emily Goldfischer)

As for Italy, in 2024, Belmond will open Romazzino, A Belmond Hotel, Costa Smeralda on Sardinia, which will offer 100 guestrooms—including suites and villas—two pools and several  restaurants. The multi-year renovation of Splendido, A Belmond Hotel, Portofino, designed by Martin Brudnizki Studio, will complete its second phase and will reopen for the 2024 season with new guestrooms, joining the swimming pool, Splendido Grill restaurant and the Baronessa Suite, which opened in 2023.

Champenois noted “Belmond is committed to deepening its commitment to the culture and arts communities around the world, and 2024 will be a year of celebration.” The brand will launch a third edition of MITICO, a contemporary art installation series in  partnership with Galleria Continua. The newest iteration is large-scale in-situ works by globally renowned French conceptual artist Daniel Buren at six Belmond hotels (Copacabana Palace, Mount Nelson, Hotel Cipriani, La Residencia, Villa San Michele and Castello di Casole). As for celebrations, hotel Mount Nelson is commemorating its 125th anniversary and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, A Belmond Hotel, Oxfordshire will mark 40 years—both with many special events in 2024.

Hilton Brings Luxury to New Markets

We also met with Dino Michael, SVP and global category head, luxury brands at Hilton, and Feisal Jaffer, global head at LXR Hotels & Resorts. Hilton is going all in the luxury space, with big growth plans for Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and LXR Hotels & Resorts.

Waldorf Astoria is focused on key international markets, adding to its current portfolio of 35 properties in 17 destinations, with a pipeline of 29 properties set to open in the coming years. For 2024, Waldorf Astoria Seychelles Platte Island will open in the first quarter, upping the ante for luxury in the Indian Ocean. The resort is just 20 minutes by plane south of Mahé in a pristine atoll fringed by palm forests, migratory seabirds and turtles, and protected by its own lagoon and coral reef. The property will be a collection of 50 seafront villas, all equipped with their own private pool and personal concierge. In addition, the iconic Waldorf Astoria in New York is set to reopen by the end of 2024.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts has four new hotels opening in 2024. First up is the Conrad Singapore Orchard in January with 445 residential-style guestrooms, including 46 suites with double terraces, located steps away from Singapore’s vibrant Orchard Road shopping district and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Singapore Botanic Gardens. Closer to home, in February, Conrad Orlando at Evermore (near Disney) will open with 433 rooms, including 51 suites and 10 family suites, a spa, multiple pools, a Polynesian-inspired Papaya Club and a rooftop bar.

This year, LXR Hotels & Resorts opened The Plaza Doha, a 290-room Parisian-style property in Qatar, and Umana Bali, a 73-villa property. Up for 2024: A remake of the former Trump International Hotel, Waikiki, will open as the LXR Waikiki. The 462-room property will have a full renovation led by international design firm BOS Studio, starting in 2025.

As for hot markets, Michael told us, “Japan and Greece are having a moment, with properties in Tokyo and Kyoto having opened during the pandemic, and the conversion of the Hilton Athens into a Conrad in 2024.” Beyond all the expansion, he is excited about the partnership with Singapore-based Proof & Co, which has created a Peacock Alley-inspired cocktail experience for Waldorf properties and the continuation of a partnership with James Beard to incorporate on-property activations with their chefs. 

One in Three Openings Is a Luxury Property for Melia Hotels

Ngorongoro Lodge rendering
Meliá Ngorongoro Lodge (Melia Hotels International)

Meliá Hotels, Spain’s leading hotel group, hosted an intimate soiree where we met Emma Cerdá, senior marketing manager, luxury brands. She shared the company's ambitious global expansion, where “one in three planned openings [is] within their luxury portfolio.”  She is most excited about the portfolio of four properties in Tanzania, with the latest opening of Ngorongoro Lodge Meliá Collection, a design-led lodge in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, also a UNESCO site. “The experiences are what makes this lodge so special; guests  can discover Ngorongoro Crater with a full-day game drive, see wildebeest, zebras and gazelles, and visit a traditional Massai house, or boma, and learn about local culture first-hand, or take a Balloon Safari over the famed Ndutu Region.”

In Europe, Palazzo Cordusio Gran Meliá in Milan, an 84-room property opened just this month—a conversion of one of the city’s most iconic Renaissance buildings and formerly the headquarters of Assicurazioni Generali, close to the Piazza del Duomo and Castello Sforzesco. The hotel is set to be a foodie hotspot with a chic patisserie, bistro, cocktail bar, and a rooftop bar and terrace with spectacular Duomo views. Lifestyle brand ME by Meliá is adding properties in Lisbon and Malta in 2024.

In Southeast Asia, Melia opened its first hotel in Vietnam: Gran Meliá Nha Trang, “bringing a blend of Mediterranean hospitality and Vietnamese charm, with a 99 all-villa resort stands out as a new luxury landmark on an unspoiled beach amidst the tropical beauty of Fairy Mountain, with spectacular views of Turtle Island.”

Fashion Brand Vilebrequin Makes Waves in Hospitality

The Vilebrequin team at ILTM
The Vilebrequin team: Emmanuelle Viinciguera, president, Americas; Roland Herlory, CEO; and Mathieu Vignier, key account manager, LATAM. (Photo by Emily Goldfischer)

Vilebrequin had a party at its new permanent beach club Vilebrequin La Plage, which opened in March just below the Croisette, here in Cannes. With interiors by designer Vincent Darré, despite the rain, it was a cheerful spot with a cute bar and dining area. “When the weather is better, you can see our sun terrace and sun beds,” Roland Herlory, chief executive officer of Vilebrequin, told us. “The beach is where we belong. Every summer since 1971, it’s been the backdrop for the art of living in the sun. It was only a matter of time before we put la plage center stage, installing our turtles and parasols on the Côte d’Azur and soon around the world.” The brand is planning 15 such beach clubs, with one in Miami’s South Beach designed by Vincent Darre, opening this winter, and another in Abu Dhabi, still in the works. Unlike other beach clubs, Herlory explained the focus is on “offering families fun and luxury at the beach, with lots of games and water sports, in Vilebrequin style.” Of course!

The day wrapped up with insightful welcome talks by economist Tina Fordham; branding guru Aaron Lau, founder of the Gusto Collective; and experience expert James Wallman, CEO of WXO, followed by a massive welcome party at the Palais sponsored by Lombardy Style. 

Stay tuned for more on ILTM.

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