Last year Juan-les-Pins inaugurated its shiny new conference centre in Juan-les-Pins. It has a rooftop auditorium. A thousand-seat ‘salle d’exposition’. A 500-seat cinema. And enough public toilets to service the cast of Star Wars.
But why bother? Why fritter tens of millions of Euros on a (rather glamorous) set of meeting rooms as France emerges from the financial crisis?
Here’s why. The average expenditure per French tourist per day on the Cote d’Azur is €61. The average spend per foreign tourist is €88 per day. For business travellers it’s a mammoth €138 per day.
And wait for it…for conference attendees it’s €210 per day (2013 official figures).
Those bumbling groups sporting grey suits and Taxation World Congress lanyards spend money like water. Conference guys order extras in restaurants, stores and hotel minibars – because it’s all going on the company credit card anyway.
Listen up. Commercial travellers make up only 14% of visitors to the South of France. But they account for a full quarter of region’s spending. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that cash?
Well, you can get it. And not only by buying a rental apartment in Juan-les-Pins, where Pebbles sister rental agency is booking a growing number of business clients. Because the Riviera’s largest conference centres (which include the Acropolis in Nice, the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco and the Palais des Festivals in Cannes) are expanding their offerings year-by-year.
The latter is a gold mine. Winter events at the Palais des Festivals like MIPIM (where 22,000 delegates pay a minimum of €1,590 per person to attend) keep Cannes’ hoteliers and apartment owners busy year-round. Little wonder that in 2014 it opened the new Auditorium Louis Lumière – all the better to squeeze 2,281 paying guests inside.
Nice’s Acropolis now offers conferences every month. I’ll admit, they sound boring. (Hands up who want’s to visit September’s World Conference of Gerontechnology or October’s European Association For Vision And Eye Research?). But anyone who owns an apartment around the corner in Nice’s booming Garibaldi area is laughing all the way to the bank.