ILTM Americas is inspiring so many. As Exhibition Director Alison Gilmore said at 0700 this morning, she is as excited now as she was on Monday when it all started (by the way this is a healthy crowd, note the number of cyclists and runners on the two-kilometre road to the beach every morning, at dawn) • We have certainly been hearing about Yucatan from Claudia Madrazo, one of the most visionary philanthropists in Latin America. Catherwood Travels, named for the artist who accompanied explorer John Loyd Stephens in the early 19th century, grew organically. Her family’s own travels led them to restore five magnificent ruined haciendas, managed by Starwood so you travel around the incredible Mayan ruins in style. Yucatan’s total area is three times the size of Costa Rica. Madrazo’s Fundacion Haciendas del Mundo Maya involves the villages, by continuing arts of embroidery, ceramics and making felt hats. Madrazo has also founded La Vaca Independiente, which she has founded to integrate art into everyday life: on November 14th, 2012, there will be the inauguration at Hacienda Ochil, designed by American light artist James Turell, of a Philip Glass composition she has commissioned, and she is about to bring seven world chefs to work with Mayan ingredients. Yes, come to Yucatan is her message.
Others urge elsewhere. Think of North Korea, says Shanghai-based Jordi Camps, CEO of China A La Carte – he can arrange everything, including visas and flights • Greater Miami CVB, here represented by Larissa Valero, is pushing its MICE appeal, at luxury level – the appeal of South Beach seems to go on and on (check out the newly-opened SLS Hotel and hear what Donald Trump is up to with his conversion of the 800-acre Doral Golf Resort & Spa). Vancouver-based Discover Holidays Canada, led here by Roxanne Taylor, offers 24-hour telephone assistance for inbound enquiries. Tourism New Zealand says come down under, for pure air, beautiful landscapes – and great wines. Turisme de Barcelona wants you in Spain – it works with 54 providers, including private transport and retail. St Petersburg-based MIR Travel Company, under Elena Berezina, can help you with Hermitage and other cultural highlights: in summer, try a Champagne-tour of the city’s spider’s web network of rivers and canals, and, year round, do not miss breakfast in the stained glass beauty of the Grand Hotel Europe’s L’Europe, and afternoon tea at Sir Rocco Forte’s Astoria.
Yes, culture abounds in today’s luxury travel. Want Greece? Try a traditional olive oil massage overlooking the azure Aegean Sea at Blue Palace on Crete – it is part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. Want Italy? Look at what the Salviatino Collection, started by the flamboyant Marcello Pigozzo, has to offer, namely stunning adaptations of a 15th century villa (the 45-room Il Salviatino outside Florence) and a 14th century palace (the 60-room Palazzo Victoria in Verona) • For a true flavour of Southern Thailand, the two-year old Paresa has a dedicated four-station cooking school – which it is turning, two nights a week, into an exclusive chef’s table, as Recipes By Ryan. Paresa GM Scott Troon, a veteran of ILTMs in both Cannes and Shanghai, says he jumped at the chance of coming to Riviera Maya, and he knew this new event would be a success even before it started • Alila, which is based in Bangkok, is going into boats. Its ten-guest Alila Purnama wooden phinisi has its inaugural sailing from Raja Ampat, Indonesia, December 15th, 2012.
ILTM sets the standard for luxury travel, says Jeffrey Levine, Regional Sales Director Sofitel North America, who heads his company’s presence here with Laurence Barreau, VP Sales Sofitel Europe. Sofitel now has 120 hotels, in 40 countries worldwide, but here they are showing their luxury labels, Sofitel Legend and Sofitel So. By the end of this December, the 2012 list of new openings will be Abu Dhabi, Agadir, Auckland, Bangkok (two), Casablanca, Montevideo and Mumbai, and this December the former 17th century Clarissa convent that is now the glorious 122-room Cartagena Santa Clara is, under GM Richard Launay, elevated to Legend status. Sofitel works with such skilled designers as Christian Lacroix (Bangkok), Sybille de Margerie (Amsterdam and Aswan), Andrée Putman (Paris Arc de Triomphe), Kenzo Takada (Ile Maurice), Pierre-Yves Rochon (Cairo and London). Jean Nouvel did Vienna. On the gastronomic front, Sofitel shows French food is not only foie gras and Michelin three-star: De-Light menus, developed by Thalassa Sea & Spa, are now available at banqueting and events, in room service and – in North America only - in restaurants.
Check out hotels with magnificent restaurants. At the Surrey Hotel & Spa, New York, all food, including room service, is by Daniel Boulud – book far ahead for Café Boulud, a favourite of Upper East Side residents and visiting CEOs (take the
2,800 sq ft Presidential Suite, by the way, and you not only get a baby grand piano and a working fire but priceless photos, by Imogen Cunningham of Frida Kablo and Diego Rivera) • At the 294-room Corinthia Hotel London, Massimo’s, run by Roman import Massimo Riccioli, is fun-gourmet for politicians from the nearby Houses of Parliament through to tourists. This 1885 building has oodles of history – the first-ever London to Brighton annual motor rally started here in 1896. Try the four-floor spa with central glass-walled sauna, and stay, if you can get one, in any of the seven unique duplex penthouses: The Musician’s has a Steinway baby grand, the Royal’s terrace offers the best city views in town.
Others go for gourmet ‘n golf. The third St Regis Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic is scheduled for April 11-14, 2013. As well as rounds of Jack Nicklaus golf, participants can, well, dine magnificently. Visiting chefs include Fernando Trocca (Argentina); Tsuyoshi Murakami (Brazil); Thierry Blouet and Enrique Olvera (Mexico). They are complemented by Argentinian vintner Laura Catena, which is a reminder that the St Regis’ GM Carl Emberson, launched the first-ever Park Hyatt Masters of Food & Wine when he was gm of Park Hyatt Mendoza.
Talking of Hyatt, Alvaro Valeriani is having such a good time he cannot believe he is working (an extended lunch with Carolina Perez on the white beach of Maroma by Orient-Express was followed by dinner, surrounded by other ILTM-ers, on Las Brisas terrace, looking at the silk-like, moon-lit ocean..) Hyatt of Latin America is suddenly galloping over the continent, with the re-do of Hyatt Regency Mexico City and, to come in Mexico alone, Park Hyatts here and Los Cabos, Hyatt Places in San Jose del Cabo and Tijuana, a Hyatt at Playa and a 213-room Andaz, with a mile of beach, here at Mayakoba – replacing the would-be Viceroy that was razed last month. Elsewhere, gushes Valeriani, there are developments in Cartagena, Papagayo, Rio de Janeiro (a Grand Hyatt, in time for the Olympics) and in his native Montevideo. In India, by the way, Park Hyatt Chennai, which opened this Monday, celebrated with a nine-minute You Tube video coincidentally showing employees dancing hiphop – think Psy, the South Korean phenomenon.
For sheer originality, try the one-room 1786 Walig Hut, high in the mountains above Gstaad. Stay at the Gstaad Palace – which kindly sponsored the ILTM programmes this year – and arrange an overnight, catered by them, there (after dining rustically, and magnificently, you sleep under thick furs and awake to cowbells). At the hotel itself, you have entrée to the town’s hottest winter nightclub GreenGo and, year round, culinary service from legendary md’ Gildo, here since 1968 and recognisable for the yellow eyeglasses he can only buy in London • Another rare experience is tasting local food here in Riviera Maya. At Maroma by Orient-Express – which is generously hosting tomorrow night’s wrap-up party – you
can be introduced to nopales, the young cladode pads of skinned prickly pear (great in salads, together with epazote, also known as Mexican tea or skunkweed). Tuesday nights, typical ‘street food’ is available, and Fridays see a just-caught seafood offering, with 50% of the $30 ticket going straight to charity. And every day, at breakfast, a mature lady in national dress sits making tortillas, which kids of all ages love. Yes, since this January Maroma, where rooms are without exception within two minutes of unrivalled beaches, will take kids, in suites • Talking of children, Leslee Hall, Botswana Tourism, says if you are taking them on safari it makes sense to choose such a small camp that you are temporarily buying the entire thing. An alternative is mobile camping. No, this does not mean driving a camper van. While you and the family are out on safari, the ‘boys’ drive to your next site and put up an amazing camp, ready for the next night (and the food, says Hall, is fabulous).
As the hosted buyers go round the large, well set out meeting rooms for their 15-minute pre-arranged meetings, they see a wealth of offerings, from such bookings support groups as Visa Luxury Hotel Collection via hotels, transport and DMCs to marketing representation. JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, who heads her own company looking after many of the world’s best hotels, is here in person – how good to see her networking as always (she lunched with her good friend Karin Salinas at the lovely Rosewood Mayakoba, which only last Friday opened a stunning new sushi and tequila bar, Agave Azui, which, thanks to Japanese-Mexican chef, Yuda-san, is already attracting Riviera Maya’s top connoisseurs).
It seems that every interest is covered here at ILTM Americas. Rodavento Coleccion’s President, Waldemar Franco, started his group 15 years ago as an offshoot of his adventure company. Stay at his 28-room Valle de Bravo hotel, he says, if you enjoy archery, mountain-biking or paragliding. Currently 80 percent of Rodavento customers are domestic and, says Franco, he is really enjoying the networking at this, his first-ever ILTM • Yes, hotels offer a variety of extras. In Austria, Gertrude Scheider’s 28-room ski hotel, the Kristiania in Lech, hosts, well, Arab-style snow picnics (the hotel was built by her father, Othmar Schneider, gold medalist in the slalom and silver medalist in the downhill at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo) • Portugal’s Exclusive by TLC, on the other hand, suggests amazing surfing at Peniche, and cooking with top gourmet José Bento Dos Santos – Diogo Assis, CEO of TLC, says there are now 15 daily flights from Brazil to Lisbon. Do the real thing, be authentic (that is what, says Travesías Chairman Javier Arredondo, was his intent with the Forum on Monday).
Authenticity is a word that has come up again and again. Is this what will replace the term ‘luxury’, which has been so universally debased? Make sure blogs and websites are authentic, urges SmartFlyer’s Travel Advisor Erina Pindar • By the way, for those who are still around tomorrow, if you have not already done so, take the Fairmont’s courtesy hour-long eco boat tour around Mayakoba’s canals and rivers, and then pamper yourself with a delicious treatment in the Fairmont’s Willowstream Spa. Mayakoba is indeed an amazing location, with three very different resorts nestled in and around a total 590 acres that are home to over 150 bird species and more than 300 vertebrates. Mayakoba shortly opens a four-mile, all-resorts natural cycle-walkway, says its marketing guru James Batt, and its next annual PGA tournament is scheduled for November 2013.
Next ILTM is in Cannes, December 3-6th, 2012. Burberry is a major sponsor, and the legendary PRS (Biki) Oberoi will be a highlight at the Forum (and his company, at the show, will be highlighting Oberoi Exotic Vacations, six nights or up, with ground transport, breakfast and yoga included). After that comes Shanghai, June 3-6, 2013, and we are back here for ILTM Americas 2013, September 30-October 3rd, www.iltm.net