The 16th edition of ILTM Cannes has kicked off in its usual inimitable style, with this year’s theme being that of exploring a world increasingly caught between extremes.

ILTM Portfolio Director Alison Gilmore, in opening the show, boasted that there are 45% new buyers at the show this year… a sign that the event is indeed a great harbinger of the future.

Indeed, travel has long been shaped by its relationship to the natural world, from tracing ancient myths to capturing the ebb and flow of life across continents. But, as luxury travel itineraries continue on a path from relaxation to edification by way of memorable experiences, travel designers are becoming increasingly attuned to the challenges of the present.

Featuring leading figures from politics, business, and technology, ILTM’s opening session this year looked ahead to a second year for the American presidency, the political and economic challenges of Brexit, and the changing landscape of the affluent mind-set internationally, revealing the forecasts of 5 globally-minded experts, in an event dedicated to predictions of global trends and future affairs. It was a provocative and enlightening look at the year ahead in an evening of intelligent entertainment.

The Future of Technology

David Rowan

David Rowan, Editor-at-large, WIRED

David Rowan, Editor-at-large, WIRED made the opening presentation of the opening forum – on the future of TECHNOLOGY.

Rowan, founding editor of WIRED magazine’s UK edition, has travelled the world investigating the companies and entrepreneurs changing our world, spending time with the founders of WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Google, Spotify, Nest, Xiaomi and many other disruptive start-ups from Tel Aviv to Shenzhen. Rowan has written columns in GQ, Condé Nast Traveller, Campaign, The Times and The Guardian. He has made TV films for Channel 4 News; and has written long features for The Telegraph Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine and Observer. He is currently writing a book about the innovation models that smart companies are using.

As we are entering a fast-moving world of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, hyperloops and brain-controlled computing, Rowan examined how these tech developments will impact on luxury travel.

Rowan offered insights from the front line of innovation on how everything to autonomous travel to immersive experiences will change the expectations of tomorrow’s discerning traveller. “Already this year we have had Elon Musk promising to fly us from Europe to Australia in an hour; two German companies launching their flying cars; and AIs beating the world’s best games players”, underlined Rowan, adding, “Do you have a strategy to prepare for the demands of the near future?”

“I’m noticing exponential curves everywhere,” said Rowan, citing the growth in guests on Airbnb and the value of bitcoin, adding, “the future comes more quickly than we all realise”.

It was barely 20 years ago that Microsoft launched a project for voice recognition, and because of the exponential curve, in 2013 it reached 23% failure, and this year, Microsoft claimed 100% human parity.

Rowan noted 5 reasons why he’s optimistic about technology. The first is that distance is being challenged by technology, citing the hyperloop and Elon Musk’s idea to create a way to send people half way around the world in half an hour. Then, there’s “Holoportation”:  Virtual 3D teleportation, that’s going to change people’s conception of travel. We’re starting to see robots as service assistants in hospitality, but tomorrow we will see personal drones and autonomous driving.  AI will go from the lab to everywhere. And connected with this, we are getting better at starting to understand the brain.

Humans however, states Rowan, will always be able to do things robots can’t.

The future of Luxury

Marc-André Kamel 2

Marc-André Kamel, Partner & Director, Bain & Co.

The future of LUXURY was addressed by Marc-André Kamel, Partner & Director, Bain & Co.

Traditional luxury market segmentation is losing relevance, according to Kamel. From the dawn of post-aspirational luxury, to the rocketing importance of “values” over “status”, everything we once knew is changing, and fast.

Bain & Co. has been ahead of every emerging trend in luxury for decades. One of the world’s leading authorities on luxury trends, Kamel gave a glimpse of what’s happening to the affluent mind-set right now, what they predict for the future, and their recommendations for the luxury travel CEO’s ideal Monday morning agenda.

In the global luxury market, the champion of growth, says Kamel, is the luxury cruise market, which is set to grow 14% this year. Changes are primarily taking place, he says, in demographics, experiences, digital prosumers, and purposeful consumption.

In terms of millennials, while they are not a big part of the market, the other sectors are, according to Bain & Co., tending to adopt the behaviours and attitudes of the millennials. The rise of Chinese luxury travellers is of course also a major trend.

The acceleration of experiences (hotels, cruises and restaurants) is growing faster than “things” (luxury goods).

The shift to digital is also important. Online bookings were 14% in 2008, and today the figure has risen to 37% of sales. The result is a great deal of complexity for luxury travel players.

Kamel cited a recent in-house survey that shows 94% of luxury customers think luxury brands should be engaged in sustainability and philanthropic activities. 60% think luxury brands should be MORE engaged than other industries.

According to Kamel, the luxury CEO’s Monday morning agenda should thus include the following:

  • Think Opex not just Capex
  • Activate consumers digitally and upgrade CRM capabilities
  • Reboot information systems to enable digitalisation
  • And invest in talent.

Kamel says the most important is the latter – attracting talents from other sectors and changing models. “It’s a very ambitious agenda, but one that’s not very comfortable”, he concluded.

The future of Sustainability

Onno Poortier 2

Onno Poortier, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, NOW Transforming Hospitality Gmbh

SUSTAINABILITY was the topic addressed by Onno Poortier, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, NOW Transforming Hospitality Gmbh.

One of the world’s most respected hoteliers and a professional with five decades experience running international luxury hotel brands, Poortier played a leading role in The Peninsula Group’s expansion into the USA and Asia Pacific, where as President he oversaw the acquisition and development of Peninsula Hotels in New York, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Beijing, Bangkok, and Tokyo. As the Co-Founder of NOW, Mr Poortier has turned his attention towards the most urgent issue of our lifetime, perhaps the biggest issue in all of human history, a legacy project with a mission to boldly advance sustainability, social responsibility and principled business practice in the hospitality and travel industry to combat climate change.

Onno Poortier

Onno Poortier, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, NOW Transforming Hospitality Gmbh

At the ILTM forum, Poortier explained that it all began when hoteliers started to discuss the “green issue” in the late 1980’s, after a UN report raised awareness of the disturbing relations between human society and the natural environment. Here we are thirty years later and climate change has become the defining predicament of our time, underlined Poortier, but while many hotels are doing excellent work, we are still hesitant to talk about the issues.

“Travel is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry and it is our job to inspire and empower the traveller to make a sustainable difference,” he stated.

Poortier explained why boldly advancing sustainability, social responsibility and principled business practice are the biggest opportunities of our time: “It matters … it must be NOW!”,

He put the issue very clearly when he underlined the fact that, “We use more nature every year than our planet can renew,” adding, “Tourism is a good development tool, but it has a cost.”

The German environmentalist set the audience thinking, asking the question, “Can we really afford not to make the climate and social responsibility a priority?”

“Saying we care is not enough”, insisted Poortier, adding, “It’s not about perfection or being the best in the world, it’s about being the best FOR the world.”

He concluded on a positive note: “There is no plan B. The change starts with us, and it must be now.”

The future of Work

Jess Kimball Leslie

Jess Kimball Leslie, “Chief Futurist”, OgilvyRED

Jess Kimball Leslie, “Chief Futurist”, OgilvyRED looked at the future of WORK. Her work has been appeared in Wired, TechCrunch, Forbes, The New York Observer, Elle Magazine, New York Magazine, Campaign Magazine, Inc., Newsweek, and many more publications. Her first book was published by Hachette Book Group in 2017. Jess frequently appears on television and radio, where’s she’s known for making early calls on companies like Yahoo!, Snapchat and Twitter. Her annual trend reports are read all over the world.

“Never before have companies tried so hard to employ so few people”, stated Leslie. “In recent years, an onslaught of the world’s brightest economists and academics have sounded the same alarm; vociferously declaring that the economy has begun rapidly changing. In addition to these academics, the world’s most visionary CEOs have quietly been preparing their business models for a world in which our economy is structured very differently. At some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, and when the radiologists start losing their jobs to AI, the travel industry is going to have to figure out what this means for us. Leslie poses the question, ‘What does your future luxury travel career look like?’”

She explained that there are basically tree ways to get around employing people: “contingent” (non-permanent) workers, third party workers (sub-contracting) and automation. Contingent work is, says Leslie, a major phenomenon. 94% of new employment growth in the last decade is contingent, but there is no way to analyse this properly.

“The answer to the future of work is understanding the history of work”, she explained, adding, “How do we take care of people in a world where manufacturing doesn’t need us anymore?”

Leslie’s three thoughts for luxury travel:

  • A rise of automated work = rise of empathy work
  • Blockchain = Accountability
  • “The last great experience anywhere…”

She concluded with a simple statement: “Go forth and be first and don’t be afraid of automation.”

The Future of Politics

Chris Kutarna

Chris Kutarna, Author of “the Age of Discovery”

The presentations concluded off with the “Future of POLITICS” by Chris Kutarna, Author of “the Age of Discovery”, described by Richard Branson as “an important book in a time where the world is dividing and retreating”.

Oxford scholar and author of The Age of Discovery, Kutarna’s open letters, posted weekly, are deemed required reading by some of the world’s smartest people and shape debate in media, boardrooms and classrooms around the world. In his best-selling book, he drew upon Renaissance wisdom to predict both Brexit and Trump.

Indeed, not so long ago, the European Union was inseparable, Trump was unelectable, globalisation was irreversible, science was incontrovertible and even the democratisation of China was inevitable.

In his presentation, Kutarna contended that the “second Age of Discovery is upon us”. All the signs herald its arrival, he states, but to navigate it, we’re going to need to make new maps. Chris tears up the out-dated thinking that has prepared us so poorly for the events of recent years. He tears up the unconscious biases that obscure our understanding of present political, economic, technological and social trends. And he draws a fresh vision to help us “captain humanity’s voyage to the New World”.

Kutarna took the audience on a trip back to the Renaissance. The renaissance belonged to and touched the entire world. It was a period when the arrival of paper changed the world – with books. And with the exploration of the world began globalisation.

This, he said, is a second renaissance. This realisation should fill us with immense hope: “The meaning of life has shifted from obedience to progress. Maybe we will profoundly shift – from growth to sustainability, said Kutarna. “The historic opportunity of our age is to usher in the next one. A new world doesn’t just arrive, it must be achieved.”

To get where we want to go we are going to have to make new maps, stated Kutarna. Radical rethinks, he says, are never going to happen in the boardroom. It’s going to happen where we leave our left-brain world behind (showing a photo of the Canadian wilderness as an example).


Matthew Upchurch, Mary Gostelow and Alison Gilmore

(left to right) Mary Gostelow, Matthew Upchurch and Alison Gilmore

Concluding the evening, ILTM’s Alison Gilmore presented the second annual Mary Gostelow award for achievement, this year to Virtuoso CEO & President Matthew Upchurch.