Let me start by saying that there was far more good than bad this year. TFWA got the tone exactly right. With just under 6000 visitors by midday on Thursday October 6, this year’s numbers reflect that the business – and its buzz – is back with a bang. Comparisons with last year, even 2019, are fairly pointless. This year really has to be the new benchmark. 
The star turn of the conference, according to many, was unquestionably David McWilliams, Adjunct Professor of Global Economics at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Business. Straight-shooting, even spikey, his presentation lit up the room. Clearly not everyone attending fully understood the scope, scale and multi-layered applications that the Metaverse presents, but TR will get there eventually –  led first by the brands, as ever.
You could feel the sense of optimism throughout the exhibition spaces. Many exhibitors I spoke to talked about the quality of their meetings and that they had high expectations for 2023. Sure, there were very few Japanese buyers, yet it was good to see that there was a decent presence from China. A couple of exhibitors mentioned that they thought there were fewer actual buyers around, with the major players just sending Board level and one under as attendees, but the TFWA numbers seem good with 2095 representatives from duty free operators and landlords, down only 12% from 2019 levels.
I mentioned the tone from TFWA. The Lounge was a great success as was the opening cocktail. Fireworks were not missed. The only blot on the Cocktail’s landscape (not the drinks) was the quality of the cocktail food. It was of far poorer quality than prior years, where even the waiter felt he had to apologise to us for one of the dishes, featured below. Is there something still moving in it?
Moving on, what was noticeable this year was a very discernible change of positioning from many of the major players. Diageo, for example, went from a fairly closed environment in the main Palais to a far more open and transparent space on the beach. Their 5 o’clock panel sessions were widely acclaimed. Equally, the quality and content of the presentations from key industry players (I couldn’t attend all), as well as their informal gatherings, were outstanding. Excellent examples here are Pernod Ricard, L’Oréal, William Grant, Brown-Forman, Nestlé and Mondelez.
And it was good to see a healthy selection of new brands trying to make a space and take a place in the travel retail world.
I won’t develop my comments from my previous blog a few weeks back on the awards (are they meaningless?). All I would say is that those handed out across the 3 events last week combine the usual annual mix of some worthy winners as well as some real oddities.
So, a good year overall and congratulations to TFWA. But, sadly, some things don’t really change. One of them is the local approach of the restaurants – in terms of pricing and attitude. You would think that COVID would have somewhat mellowed their approach to customer service. Not at all. We all know that the various Palais festivals and their delegates represent some 70% of the income for Cannes. And the restaurants know that the shows and the delegates will keep on coming back. COVID hurt many, but the greed of some restaurants to play catch up was there for all to see. In Le Suquet, for example, one decently average restaurant charged 98 euros for a steak – well over a 100% increase from 2021. With the lowest inflation rate currently in Europe at 6% in France (it’s over 80% in Turkey at time of writing), how can such an increase be justified? Of course you can walk away, but the price hikes this year were everywhere to be seen. Happily there are still some gems to be found. La Brouette de Grand Mère, located just off the Rue D’Antibes, is one. Definitely worth a visit.
I actually stayed in Cap D’Antibes this year. I did not want to pay 230 euros for a 2 star hotel. The Carlton being closed (no, I have never stayed there) definitely had a knock on effect with demand for all the other hotels. Yet, door to door it took me just 28 minutes and it was well worth the change.
And back to service. In fairness, the attitude from French staff at restaurants in Cannes is closely mirrored in other Mediterranean countries. But the French excel and seem to have developed their version of customer service into an art form.There is always one story worth telling, so here it is.
We were at L’Avenue, which directly faces the entrance to the Palais, for a quick lunch. The waiter arrived and managed to drop water all over the table and my suit. He then started to put place mats on the table, which only succeeded in more water going all over us. I stopped him and asked him to bring a cloth and dry the table. He was reluctant, but then went to get one. His response? ”But monsieur, it is only water. It is not coffee or tea. It is hot out here, it will dry. I see no problem”. A dismissive, perhaps even a pragmatic perspective, but the wrong one.
Still with service and approach. I must say I found the attitude of security in all areas very mixed. Sometimes it was helpful, especially when I was with the film crew, but at other times decidedly officious, acting like over zealous policemen. This was very evident at the Registration area and I do hope that they are better briefed next year to adopt a different manner.
So that’s a wrap for TFWA Cannes 2022. Perhaps not quite a vintage year, but a very good one nonetheless. I am sure we can look forward to vintage in the coming years.


Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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