Mood decidedly upbeat at luxury travel conference in Cannes

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Raffles The Palm Dubai is scheduled to open in 2021.
Raffles The Palm Dubai is scheduled to open in 2021.

CANNES, France -- Raffles Hotels & Resorts signed an agreement to build a beach resort in Dubai. Jumeirah said it is close to finalizing the lifestyle brand it has been studying for years. And luxury travel companies from around the globe expressed confidence about continued steady growth as the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) kicked off its 16th annual networking event on the French Riviera.

With a record 1,742 exhibitors and 1,650 buyers from 75 countries, the mood was decidedly upbeat at the three-day gathering that is considered by many to be the luxury travel industry's premier networking event.

Unlike the heady excitement that marked ILTM gatherings in the boom years immediately following the Great Recession, however, there were few big new announcements.

Instead, the mood was one of calm, business-as-usual confidence that the steady stream of new properties coming out of post-recession pipelines represent what the industry sees as a new normal of continued healthy growth.

Indeed, from the Seychelles to the Himalayas to Venice and Bulgaria, luxury companies used the forum to provide updates on the seemingly countless new hotels, resorts and cruise ships that are under development or soon to open.

Chris Cahill, CEO of luxury brands for Accor Hotels, provided one of the few bits of breaking news, announcing that just minutes before his press briefing the company signed an agreement with Dubai-based master developer Nakheel to build a Raffles resort on Palm Jumeirah.

The two-tower development, to be called Palm360, will have a hotel and residences. The resort's signature feature will be a 500-foot-long "sky pool" connecting the towers 550 feet above the ground.

Also Tuesday, Jumeirah Group CEO Marc Dardenne confirmed that his Dubai-based luxury hotel company has several yet-to-be-announced properties in its announced pipeline, including some that will carry a new brand name,

He said the company, known for raising the bar on luxury more than a decade ago with development of Dubai's famed Burj Al Arab, has for years been looking to create a secondary lifestyle brand and expects to finally release details of those plans early next year.

Correction: ILTM is hosting 1,742 exhibitors and 1,650 buyers from 75 countries; incorrect numbers of exhibitors and buyers appeared in an earlier version of this article.

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