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“I believe that with the new facilities we have created and the spaces we have improved, travellers and locals alike can truly experience our destination”


“I believe that with the new facilities we have created and the spaces we have improved, travellers and locals alike can truly experience our destination”

Category: Europe - France - Interviews and portraits - Interviews - Industry leaders
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-06-09

The revival of the Carlton Cannes is the achievement of Tristan Auer. The interior designer worked for months together with Cannes architect Richard Lavelle, the architects of Bâtiments de France and more than 170 other specialized trades to restore the soul of the most legendary luxury hotel on La Croisette in Cannes. Remarkable care was taken to respect the palace's heritage and history, while bringing it up to date with modern, experiential design.

Here, the magic of a perfectly orchestrated renovation is at play. The iconic interior and exterior spaces have been completely created, yet give the illusion that they have always been there, that they are rooted in the history of the place. The smallest detail enhances the heritage, like the clay floor that lines the reception counter, a reference to the clay tennis court installed on the forecourt of the hotel when it was founded in 1913, or the staff wardrobe, like the pleated skirts worn in reception, the blue of which evokes the dress worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

The group that owns the hotel, Katara Hospitality, has invested generously, beyond 350 million euros, to restore this Cannes hotel icon to its former glory. Its splendid renovation not only flatters the hotel's staff, but the entire city of Cannes is proud of this long-awaited reopening.

From the moment you enter, you are greeted by the splendour of the original marble columns, the spaciousness, and the warmth of a welcome provided by lobby-ambassadors, who direct visitors to reception or to the other key points of the Carlton. The garden, C Club Fitness & Spa, Garden, infinity pool, conference centre, restaurants, tearoom, bar, beach, etc. have all transformed the Carlton into a true destination in the heart of Cannes.

Two new wings have been added to complete the setting, housing not only the “residences”, flats from 80 to 500 square metres, but also the conference centre and the C Club Fitness & Spa, a 900-square-metre wellness and health bubble dedicated to travellers and members, featuring a boxing ring for a disruptive experience on La Croisette.

The Carlton's new Eden, the inner courtyard, focuses all attention. A 2,000 m² garden, featuring 22,000 Mediterranean plants, and a pool area add to the Carlton's soothing atmosphere. The art of Belle Époque living is subtly evoked by an Italian-inspired peristyle that invites you to stroll and relax.

332 rooms and suites, finely decorated in shades of cream to terracotta, 72 of which have sea views, complete this new picture of neoclassicism, Belle Époque and absolute modernity. On the seventh floor, level with the legendary cupola, four signature suites create an exclusive cocoon for the most privileged guests. The Katara suite complements the Grace Kelly, Cary Grant and Kirk Douglas suites, which can be connected to form a single private space.

The Journal des Palaces had the opportunity to get inside the Carlton Cannes A Regent Hotel and find out more about it, courtesy of a meeting with its General Manager, Giuseppe Vincelli.

Journal des Palaces: What does the new Carlton mean to you?

Giuseppe Vincelli: Our architect, Tristan Auer, and the architects from Bâtiments de France, have done an extraordinary job. What makes me smile every day is the impression I get that the space we've created has always existed: the garden, the peristyle, the pool, the bar and so on. Whereas all these places didn't exist.
The building was different, the outside space was just a service area. Today, it's an extraordinary place. On the one hand, we have the hustle and bustle of the Croisette, and on the other, the serenity of our garden. And it's the light that dominates, the light from the south that penetrates through our bay windows into the garden, and the light from the garden that enters the lobby.

Today, guests continue to ask for a sea view, but as soon as they arrive, they discover the new Carlton and ask for a garden view.

What were your objectives for the long-awaited reopening?

Our ambition was first and foremost to respect the history and culture of the hotel. The risk was to betray the heritage we had at the time. That would have been a very serious mistake. But we also wanted to look to the future. So, we had to respect where we came from and show where we want to go. Easy to say, complex to achieve.

The second thing was to create a hotel that becomes a destination, where people can say “I'm going to the Carlton in Cannes” and not “I'm going to Cannes”. This was already to some extent the case, but we were missing some ingredients. The addition of this garden, the swimming pool, the residences, form a different concept of life, which led us to create a destination with spa, fitness, restaurants with different themes.

We were already the reference, the lighthouse of the Croisette. That's one thing, becoming a destination is another. I believe that with the new facilities we have created and the spaces we have improved, travellers and locals alike can truly experience our destination.

Which trades, craftsmen or artists were involved in the work?

We had 170 different trades working with us on our adventure. Craftsmen from Mouans-Sartoux created the ceramic counter in the bar and concierge area. We wanted to promote local know-how and local and international craftsmen.

Craftsmen were involved in creating the chandeliers and the butterfly-shaped works of art on each floor, which refer to the bow ties worn on the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals.

Were there any technological innovations that you added during the renovation project, to stay ahead of other establishments in Cannes?

First, we completely overhauled all the networks. We installed home automation systems in all the rooms and communal areas.

We're using technology to enable guests to check in via a tablet from reception, the lounge, the terrace, the bar, the beach, and so on. Numerous studies have been carried out before, during and after a stay to improve the arrival experience and reduce the transactional experience.

In the guest room, home automation promotes well-being. Air conditioning and heating can be adjusted to suit individual habits at any time of the year.

Could you please tell us about your new events centre?

I think we now have the finest facility on the French Riviera, with our conference centre. Our approach has been “serenity but functionality”.

The technical work was colossal, with fundamental work on the lighting to reproduce natural light. When you're in this meeting space, the fabric that reflects the light, a metal wick in the ceiling, and the skylight with its vertical garden that brings in real daylight, create a natural atmosphere at -16 metres below sea level.

In addition, 24 hanging points, each weighing 500 kilos, mean that the space can be completely customized for fashion shows and other events. Another strong point of the site is that there are no columns to disturb the space. All the home automation systems are there to enhance the experience.

A ramp allows you to drive a car, even though the centre is on the third basement floor of the hotel. Imagine, at a gala, the VIP giving the speech arrives by car or motorbike.

And imagine the experience of weddings and other festive events. You've enjoyed a fine dinner in the grand salon, you've admired the fireworks at the beach, and now you're off to party in the basement, without disturbing a single guest because everything is soundproofed.

What are the other surprises at the new Carlton?

The Rüya restaurant, which offers a wide range of rich Anatolian cuisine, has been launched. All the dishes we serve at Rüya – meat, fish, and vegetables – are enhanced by spices and created to be shared. The restaurant includes a pide oven, for traditional bread baking as practised in Turkey, Iran, Georgia and elsewhere. We have developed this in the spirit of sharing.

So, the hotel is neoclassical, Rüya is Anatolian and festive. This festive atmosphere encourages relaxation and elegance. A DJ hosts the evenings in this setting.

Rüya is likely to be open all year round. It has a terrace and private access on the Croisette, and it's a restaurant that breaks the codes because it's night and day compared to what we know in Cannes.

You are also opening a spa?

Indeed, we're opening our C Club Fitness & Spa. A place that is absolutely different from what you would expect to find in a hotel. In most hotels, there's a gym with equipment, operating on a 'help yourself' basis.
We have created a concept that is open to external members and hotel guests. It includes rooms for group classes and private coaching. People who love being members of a fitness club need a personalized routine, so it's necessary to have this offer. We even have a room with a boxing ring and a coach, which offers a unique experience here.

We also have a spa with individual and double cabins. We haven't chosen to associate ourselves with any particular brand because we've focused on a range of products adapted to the needs of our guests. Some brands are holistic, others are experts in facials, etc., so we decided to offer our guests the luxury of selecting the products they want.

The C Club is our club, which allows us to decide the cosmetics brands that will make us different from the rest.

What about the two new wings of the Carlton, the Residences area?

The 'Residences' wing, reserved for flats, includes suites ranging from 80 m² to 1,000 m² (Flat + Terrace, editor's note), which complement the 200 to 600 m² flats on the seventh floor that we already have in the hotel. These flats have kitchens so that the chefs can offer an exclusive service to these guests, some with a service entrance for access to these kitchens. Others have a private lift.

There is a real appetite for it. Some people don't want the full hotel experience, but they like the hotel services. This new product enables guests who are already renting flats next to the Carlton to take advantage of our services, to enjoy the full Carlton experience.

This is still a rare offer in France, especially on the French Riviera.

Regarding the security and privacy of guests, what provisions have been made for the most exclusive suites?

We have service protocols but prefer to maintain discretion on this aspect. These protocols change depending on the delegation. Security for celebrities differs from security for world leaders, and so on. We adapt and offer all these security services access to the specific equipment they need.

What's your favourite place in the new Carlton? And for which reason?

There are three of them.

I really love the garden, this feeling of serenity. In certain areas of the garden, you can see the sea through the transparent effect. And it's a real success story. We were lucky enough to have the support of landscape architects who helped us create this oasis of peace. It's a living space that we haven't just created for hotel guests. We invite people in, and the peristyle is a soothing walk.

The second spot that I love is our cocktail bar, Bar 58, because it brings that little touch of decadence, linked to the neoclassicism of the building. Its magical chandeliers, the extraordinary way the materials are worked, like the marble in the entrance, which is complemented by the brass on the front of the bar, or the mirrors echoing on the floor. In addition, the small steam fireplace creates an extraordinary atmosphere of light in this mix of experiences. The bar's balcony, in resin-coated ceramic, recalls the colours of the eucalyptus leaf (very common in the south of France), with pale green, pink, and brown. The whole creates a harmonious effect.

Finally, I think we really succeeded in eliminating the transactional side of our reception. We've created a vacuum when you walk in. You can walk into 98% of the hotels in the world and there's always a table with flowers, which is a barrier. We aimed to eliminate this barrier and be welcoming. You have a space that is 'empty', but not really because you can see the columns that we've salvaged and the chandeliers, with a unique perspective in the centre.

What are your target markets? What kind of guest profiles are you expecting at the Carlton?

During the year, Europe remains our main market, for both MICE and leisure. We also have strong demand from the North American markets (United States and Canada). There is an Asian market, but it is smaller than the others.
We do, of course, welcome delegations from the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Qatar, and Egypt.

How does the hotel meet the expectations of both leisure and business travellers?

These days, travellers' behaviour has changed, and they take advantage of their business trips, their business, and at the same time can come back, in the evening or afternoon, for an apéritif or even for informal business, here, at the bar or in the garden. That's why we've placed tables all along the peristyle, which are very secluded. In this way, we have created confidential, intimate spaces.

Travellers who want to enjoy a moment of solitude, reading a book, without being solicited, can take refuge in the garden, and if they want the slightest service, all they have to do is make a gesture and one of our staff will come and serve them.

The beach is also a place that meets expectations at any time of year. In January, guests were asking us for deckchairs after their lunches.

How did your guests react when they discovered the new Carlton?

I'll give you an example: I used to run the hotel. It needed to be refurbished, and I was there during the transformation, wearing a hard hat, boots, etc. Two days before the opening, I really forced myself to do a 'reset' to forget all that past. I tried to walk like a guest on D-1 when everything had been cleaned up. I went out and stayed on the Croisette for half an hour, late at night, around 10.30pm. When I walked in, like a child, I had this impression of “Wow”, I was touched.

On the opening day, after the ceremonial protocol, I stood aside and watched the faces of the guests as they came in and discovered the hotel. And that's what I've been doing since the opening.

Everyone comes in and goes 'Wow'. Guests tell us that we've brought modernity while respecting the heritage and culture. That's the feeling I get, and that's what I see in the guests.

What about your staff?

They are the reason why a hotel is beautiful. An architect, financial resources, design offices have the expertise, etc., but human capital is essential.

During the closure, we offered them the opportunity to work on the beach to keep them engaged. We carried out a training plan, which ran from 2022 to 2023, including relational excellence and emotional commitment, with the creation of our promise to our guests. We have worked extensively on all aspects of emotional commitment in the guest experience, before, during and after their stay. It's been a very heavy financial investment, but we're proud of it.

The fact that we have loyal staff is very valuable, even if we are constantly looking for seasonal workers.

How would you define luxury hospitality?

Giuseppe Vincelli: Luxury today is defined by time and space, which are worth nothing without an emotional commitment to service.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to work in the luxury hotel industry?

My advice would be to want to serve, and to get out of your comfort zone. Have the courage to learn languages and travel. Luxury hotels allow you to travel in a different dimension, but you have to ask yourself: “Do I want to please people?”.

Editor's note: since this meeting, Carlo Stragiotto has become the new General Manager of the Carlton Cannes - a Regent Hotel.

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About the author

As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.

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