I’m currently sitting at an airport gate in the South of France. Again.
But this time, instead of returning with little treats – ripe Camembert for my beloved, say, or a Fragonard rose soap for my goddaughter – I’m returning with a little something extra myself: a hoarse voice.
And it’s all your fault.
I’m on my way back from the annual International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes – the equivalent of Fashion Week for the travel industry. But instead of selling frocks, or trying to persuade us that green is the new black or the mini is the new maxi, those exhibiting inside the mammoth convention centre are selling luxury places to go on holiday.
There are stands devoted to entire countries (“Come to Barbados; the land of smiles”). Tanned men in white showing off photographs of their new yachts. Women, with immaculate manicures and show-ready blow-dries, representing new tourist destinations (“Saudi: the new Paris”). And representatives of hundreds of hotels, from Amman to Zimbabwe.
Most of them have come to Cannes to drum up sales: to persuade tour operators and travel agents to send them tourists. But, they are also there to sell their products to journalists. And sell themselves they do – non-stop from 7.45am to midnight four days in a row, until by Thursday night everyone has heard, or told, so many stories that all you want to do is to take yourself off into a monastery and never speak again.
While many of the magic properties/yachts/destinations we discover ourselves – by walking up and down the rows, and stopping to interrogate stall-holders as we prowl – several of the best are introduced to us by people like you. Clever PRs who know their clients, have done their research about the sorts of stories we journalists want, and match-make accordingly.
In three days, I’ve been set up with more CEOs and hoteliers and explorers and destination experts than I’d meet in London in six months. I’ve come back with two exclusives for The Times, several ideas for trips that I hope to do, and a notebook full of scribbled information to draw on.
So thank you those of you who set me up beforehand with people whom you knew I’d get on with – or whose properties you knew I’d fall in love with.
I may be hoarse, but it was worth it.