As the Cannes Lions roared again on the French Riviera, we spoke to an expert about trends in travel.
Jack Ezon — the founder and managing partner of Embark Beyond, a lifestyle partnership specializing in bespoke travel experiences — gave The Post some travel tips and insights on what to do and where to go at the festival, and beyond this summer.
Q: What trends are you seeing in tourism in Cannes and the French Riviera, in general, this time of year? Which hotels are booked up?
A: The two strongest markets for us this summer are the French Riviera and Amalfi Coast. Revenue in these areas is up almost 100% over 2022. Nearly every jet-setter hotel is full, though there are still great pockets in Monte Carlo and Cannes and even untouchable palaces like the Byblos in St. Tropez, Four Seasons Cap Ferrat, or even Hotel du Cap in Antibes. The key is to pick up last-minute cancellations.
Q: What were some hidden gems for travelers after Cannes Lions?
A: All eyes are on Cannes this year, thanks to the unveiling of the fabulous reinvention of the storied Carlton, which is literally redefining Cannes. In the past few years, the city got ignored by the jet-set crowd, opting for nearby Monte Carlo, Antibes, or Cap Ferrat. Most of that stemmed from a lack of amazing places to stay.
With the $500 million investment, the grand dame of the French Riviera has not only become the hottest hotel in France but single-handedly revitalized Cannes as the place to stay on the Riviera. We love to combine it with Monte Carlo, the beautiful new Maybourne Riviera, or with the buzz of St. Tropez. Those looking for more of a detox-retox fusion, a trip into the glorious Provence, just two hours away by car, is idyllic.
Q: Did you get a glimpse of the renovated Carlton? What’s it like? What would Cannes Lions attendees love about the new space?
A: There are a few grand dames that you walk through and get goosebumps. The Carlton is one of them. Regent nailed it when it comes to renovating one of the world’s most iconic hotels without losing its soul. You know where you are. It is utterly classic, paying homage to its original art-deco and Belle Epoch style with a fresh, bright, and polished contemporary take.
The addition of the sprawling courtyard and pool now provides a great view for those who cannot afford to face the Croisette. The rooms have bright white carpets, rich lacquer woods, sumptuous amenities, and delicious linens. Restaurants are at a new level, and the terrace is probably the best breakfast scene on the coast.
Q: You mentioned Provence as a destination for travelers after Cannes. I saw that George Clooney stayed at Villa Gallici in Aix after the Cannes Film Festival this year. Where are people staying and are you finding that tourism is growing in the region?
A: Le Bastide in Gordes and Villa la Coste are the hot new darlings of Provence, both offering a completely different experience. Le Bastide is set in the ancient hillside village of Gordes overlooking the Luberon Valley with a fresh take of traditional style fastidiously redone by the famous Airelles group. Conversely, Villa la Coste is an uber-modern villa set on a sprawling vineyard peppered with dramatic modern art.
In nearby Avignon, Crillon-le-Brave is set in an ancient commune brimming with a sense of place and history which has also been gorgeously redone with modern luxuries, while the dainty Fontenille outside of Aix is perfect for visitors who want to feel a guest in a friend’s Provençal home. Let’s not forget St. Tropez, which, for the true jet setter that goes into withdrawal with too much quiet, is the hottest of the hotspots on the coast.
Q: What are some of your personal favorite hot spots in the region in terms of hotels and restaurants?
A: I also love the quaint village of Les Baux and the lovely Ostau de Baumanière. It’s not the most polished and not the newest hotspot, but it is full of charm and soul.
Q: Are there any-must do or must -see things while in Cannes or the French Riviera in general?
A: I am obsessed with the French Riviera, summer, winter, spring, or fall. There is always something going on. In fact, I love Monte Carlo in winter – it has restaurants and shops as amazing and as elegant as Paris with a much milder climate (without the crowds). The Casino is still one of the most glamorous affairs you will ever experience.
Art lovers should make a pilgrimage to St. Paul de Vence brimming with art galleries. Take a walk along the Croisette – it’s always just fabulous Because I love nature, I like to take a road trip to nearby Calanques National Park which is nothing short of spectacular. I love to hit the beach clubs and nightclubs in Cannes such as the Carlton Beach Club, Plage Keller, and, my favorite, Baoli Beach which becomes an incredible club as dusk arrives.
Though it lacks the glamor of Cannes and Antibes, I love shopping in the old town of Nice. Stroll Juan les Pins after the beach to encounter local families in an adorable village among the jet-set sanctuaries of Cannes and Antibes. You cannot leave without a quick boat ride to La Guerite Island for lunch!!!
Q: Media and ad execs are worried about the economic volatility and a potential recession but you say travel is booming — why is that?
A: It’s not explainable. People keep spending like it’s burning a hole in their pockets! They continue to desperately canvas the Mediterranean this summer or the Caribbean over the winter holidays, whatever the cost. We’ve been talking about a recession for over 2 years and we just don’t see it in our bookings.
What will the future hold? Who knows…. That’s why I think everyone just wants to live IN THE NOW and worry about finances later. I mean, you can choose to live with memories or dreams. You only live once!