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Cannes is the epitome of old-fashioned luxury and a perfect location for the global travel industry”s premier luxury travel show. Arriving by private jet at Mandelieu Airport, a line of gleaming red Ferraris awaits VIP travel buyers outside the small terminal. The blustery winds and rain left behind at Farnborough Airport are replaced by sunshine. The supercars have been booked, courtesy of sponsor Red Travel of Italy, to whisk the guests to the Palais de Congres venue. A red carpet lines the venue entrance for all visitors. Welcome to the world of ILTM.
The annual International Luxury Travel Market is run like a private club. Invitation only, it brings together the cr”me de la cr”me of travel suppliers and hotels. Organisers Reed Travel Exhibitions has a strict vetting policy and it is this that makes ILTM so successful. The fact that it hasn”t become a hugely oversubscribed event has made the show a real plus for the attendees. Luxury travel continues to grow, the organisers report, with the world”s most affluent now spending more on holiday experiences that offer ”authenticity.” And as the affluent traveller increasingly looks for something ”real” in their travel plans, there is a trend to move further away from familiar brands. More and more of the uber affluent are travelling en famille and family luxury is becoming a growing trend.
ILTM works around pre-arranged appointments between travel buyers and exhibitors in a formula similar to the successful ”Routes” airline/airport networking event. This week it was on course to exceed some 43,000 appointments (each 20 minutes long) between the 1,240 exhibiting companies and the 1,100 visiting buyers. At ILTM, exhibitors stay on their stands, champagne in ice buckets and luxury chocolates at the ready. During the three-day meeting they will meet up to 12 potential ”buyers” each day. Missed appointments are frowned upon and if anyone misses four appointments they will not be invited back.
ILTM was the perfect showcase for Virtuoso, the US-based luxury travel specialist, to announce its selection as the leading accredited sales agent in North America for Virgin Galatic”s Space Travel. The company announced it has recruited the first 47 travel consultants throughout the US to help market space travel. Virgin Galatic was a new exhibitor at ILTM, on the look out to recruit UK, Russian and European sales agents to sell missions in space. ”This is going to be the next frontier of travel and we want passionate, committed people to help us sell what will be the world”s first commercial space line, highlighted,” Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch said.
Virgin Galatic highlighted that pilots from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Blue will be trained to become astronauts ready to take their first passengers into space from late 2008, early 2009 at a cost of $200,000 (”101,600) per person. The bigger deposit they pay the earlier they can ”get launched.” Virgin Galatic highlighted that its first craft will be delivered in autumn 2007. There then follows 12-18 months of flight testing.
Private jet company Club328, which organised the private charter over to Cannes, and Lufthansa Private Jet reported strong interest from potential Russian buyers during the show. Air Charter managing director Tim Procter acknowledged too that his Gatwick-based company is seeing growing requirements from the region. ”We are receiving regular requests for Moscow ” Seychelles or Moscow ” Maldives these days, and often at two to three days notice. This means strong demand for Global Express and BBJ jets,” he said.
ILTM”s Broadening Horizons conference invited leading figures in the industry to air their personal views about the market and how it is developing. NBC Today travel editor Peter Greenberg took the opportunity for a rally call to the airlines to improve their service levels and to stop treating passengers like cattle. The conference focused on the new travel markets ” Russia, India and China ” who have high spend and are brand hungry, in contrast to their European counterparts. India is especially technology conscious, delegates heard, wanting wi-fi in their rooms and big rooms too, that inter-connect, so they can bring their families and extended families. Luxury Travel Magazine editor Alyson Cook notes that some of these trends are coming to Europe too, citing Starwood”s recent investment in bigger interconnecting family rooms, exemplified at the Blue Palace in Crete. ”More and more travellers want authenticity,” she reiterated.
In recognition that China is a big growth market and will see double digit growth in the next five years, ILTM founders Serge Dive and David Hammond will launch Asia Luxury Travel Market (ALTM), modelled on the ILTM show next June in Shanghai to attract Asian buyers. From ”Mumbai to Hawaii” goes its pitch. Some 60% of exhibition space at this event has already been sold.
So what do first time luxury travel buyers think of ILTM? Yulia Hayward is in charge of arranging Corporate Events at Bank of America, based at Canary Wharf. ”I came to the show looking for something a little different. We”ve all done the Ferrari drive ” I wanted to look at unusual things to do ” bob-sleighing in Norway, for example, and to see some unusual and beautifully appointed elite hotels. ILTM was just perfect for making useful contacts.”
”There is just so much to see and so many interesting people to meet you could actually make ILTM a day longer,” commented Louise Rate from Citigroup."More time between the meetings would”ve been good, there is a lot to digest.” ILTM is also big on partying and the highlight of the week was the Hotel Martinez cocktail party which saw guests partying long into the early hours. Thank goodness for that relaxing private jet flight home.
Images: ” www.iltm.net