Organizers of the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) conference in Cannes, France, are gearing up for what is likely to be the most lively version of the annual event in recent memory, as record numbers of luxury travelers this year fuel optimism across the hotel, cruise and tour segments as well as among tourism ministries.
The conference takes place Dec. 3 to 6 at Cannes' Palais des Festivals et des Congres, with additional events spread throughout the Cote d'Azur resort town.
ILTM will feature an interview with Oberoi Group CEO P.R.S. Oberoi that will be conducted by Conde Nast Traveler's editor in chief, Klara Glowczewska, on the conference's opening day.
Silvio Ursini, executive vice president of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, will also speak at the conference's opening forum, while John Andrews, consulting editor at The Economist, will present his macroeconomic findings and forecasts for the third consecutive year at the conference.
Oberoi, whose father founded the India-based hotel company in 1934, oversees a company that operates 29 luxury hotels throughout much of Asia and the Middle East, including Oberoi-branded properties in Mumbai, Bali and Dubai.
In 2011, the conference attracted about 2,500 attendees, who were about equally split between travel buyers and travel sellers. Among those honored at the 2011 event was Four Seasons Founder and Chairman Isadore Sharp.
Last year, Andrews, speaking on the conference's opening day, warned of a potential collapse of the eurozone economy and the "disastrous" effects that would have on the travel industry. Andrews also alluded to a U.S. economy that remained fairly stagnant, as many questions would remain unanswered until the upcoming presidential election was decided.
Yet, despite Andrews' warnings, hoteliers from companies such as Jumeirah and Hilton Worldwide spoke enthusiastically of expanding their luxury brands to meet increasing demand from higher-end tourists.
The hoteliers now appear to have been prescient. Luxury-travel executives will meet in Cannes near the end of what could well be a record year in terms of international tourism, largely fed by spending by luxury travelers worldwide. Globally, international tourism arrivals totaled a record 467 million visitors through the first six months of the year, up 5% from a year earlier, the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported last month.
The Asia-Pacific region and Africa were the destinations with the largest year-over-year jumps in inbound travelers, while the number of outbound travelers from China and the Russia Federation surged 30% and 15%, respectively, relative to the first half of 2011, according to the UNWTO.
In the meantime, the ILTM itself has been expanding its event offerings.
The group hosted its first Americas conference in Mayakoba, Mexico, earlier this month. ILTM Asia will take place in Shanghai next June, while the inaugural ILTM Africa conference will take place in Cape Town next April.
Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.