There’s past and there’s future, and at their crossroads is a visit to Cannes, France, for the 12th annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM).
With about 3,000 exhibitors and buyers in attendance at the seaside town’s Palais des Festivals et des Congress on Monday night, ILTM keynote speakers spoke optimistically of a rosy future where smartphones double as travel brochures, luxury becomes a religion and trends are shaped by a combination of the growing purchasing power of women and the broadening influence of American culture.
“We moved away from the wisdom of friends towards the wisdom of experts. … Now we’ve come full circle. We’re back to the wisdom of friends,” said Facebook’s global head of travel and keynote speaker Lee McCabe. “Everyone’s a travel agent, and everyone’s a publisher.”
“This is a planet of about 600 cities,” added Swedish economist and author Dr. Kjell Nordstrom. “Luxury will be redefined under these circumstances.”
Still, spend some time in Cannes, and one will find luxury being defined just as much by looking back as by looking forward. Stroll down the coastal strip Boulevard de la Croisette (where the weather was unseasonably temperate and where the winds lacked the bite of those during previous ILTM visits), or a few blocks north to Rue d’Antibes and you’ll find dozens of global-branded shops showing off the latest in high-end fashion.
Go further up the hill, however, to the narrow, winding, stone-covered streets and the experience gets a whole lot earthier and with a more historic bent.
In fact, the real action in Cannes may actually be off La Croisette (the same could be said for getting a decent deal on dress shoes for a reporter that left his at home), where narrow side streets and other busy thoroughfares reveal shops and eateries with a decidedly more local flavor.
One in particular is Astoux & Brun, which has been serving its shellfish specialties to locals since 1953. Using my CDL (“crowd don’t lie”) method of finding places to eat, I found a real lively hangout full of local families, couples, Japanese businessmen and groups of young adults getting served heaping, ice-filled plates of oysters, clams and shrimp, complete with sides of pungent mignonette and creamy remoulade, not to mention lots of chilled white wine and beer.
Either way, few places signify C
annes’ mix of past, present and future fashion better than the iconic Hotel Martinez.
Built in 1929, the hotel surrounds its 409 guest rooms with its slightly modernist architecture, lyrical staircases and, of course, stunning views of the Mediterranean.
Classicism aside, the hotel celebrates current fashion with lounge-area portraits of Milla Jovovich, Freida Pinto and, yes, Jane Fonda. It also goes somewhat traditional with a great breakfast buffet that included smoked swordfish, chicken and pork sausage and coffee served with real cream of the thick, globular variety (none of this weak half-and-half stuff). You’ve got to love the French.
Still, with the hotel being acquired earlier this year by Qatar-based Constellation Hotel Holdings, the new ownership isn’t simply resting on the hotel’s laurels.
Having brought in Hyatt Hotels to manage the property and rebranding it as the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez, the owners are planning a full renovation of the property and its comfortable, but conservative, rooms starting next year.
Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.