Up to six times a year, many of my favorite clients (with their spouses and some of their key employees in tow) disappear to mostly glamorous locales. In recent years, these have included Rome, Paris, Cape Town, Tokyo, Vienna, Amsterdam, Lausanne, Cannes and of course, every year, there is Las Vegas, there is London and there is Berlin.
The reason for the massive migrations? Attendance to the major “pow wows” organized by Virtuoso (if you need to ask who they are…) American Express Platinum, The Leading Hotels of the World, Relais & Chateaux, World Travel Market (London every year, and Penang too, this year), ITB Berlin, Pure Marrakech, ILTM (Cannes, with offshoots in Cape Town – on the heels of Virtuoso, Shanghai, Sao Paulo – Travel Week and Mexico City).
There are such months as November, also the time for the New York Hotel Experience (formerly known as the New York International Hotel Show) when one literally has to be in 3 locations at the same time: in New York, in London (World Travel Market) and at the Leading Hotels of the World’s global conference. The latter alternates every year between Europe (where half of its members are located) and another continent. It usually takes place the week before Thanksgiving, but can be adjusted to accommodate the host city. The attendance to HOTELS’ Hotelman of the Year Award, a major recognition in our world, is occasionally poorly attended as many decision makers may find themselves in a different part of the world that day.
What started as a sincere vehicle to bring sellers (hotels) and buyers (travel agents) together, is gradually morphing into something else: for the organizers, such events can become highly “juicy” profit centers, as any conference and/or trade show. They offer challenges to outdo themselves year after year in order to maintain the attention span of a too often hungover audience. They are the Olympics of hospitality sales, except that the Olympics never turn a profit. But these are Olympics in which nobody travels on their own dime, which makes for epic expense reports, occasionally resulting in tumultuous… shall we say… changes of regime. They also are not the ideal circumstance for those who do not handle their liquor well: unlike Vegas, everything that happens in Cannes, does not (always) stay in Cannes.
As for the most prestigious travel agents, celebrities in themselves, who charge their clients a retainer, they will not meet you half way around the world: you have to beg for an audience in their very offices. Show humility, possibly kiss their ring, and they may reward you by sending an underling to a site inspection or a fam trip.
Let’s face it, folks, does it not remind you of some of those citywide events of yore at the Palmer House and the Sherman House, when the convention of American Plumbers Association would meet, for the obvious purpose of eating too much, drinking too much and watching the dancers at the Blackstone’s Flaming Sally’s?
My last question is: don’t the MICE dance when the cat is away? When everyone is out of town trying to lure the next client, who is left behind to pamper the existing guest?
A funny thing: when, as a client you try to reach the hotel’s sales office, nobody picks up the phone anymore (worst case scenario, I admit): everybody is out visiting the Stellenbosch Vineyards.