Cannes, The Famous City of Film is an “International Village”
On a sunny terrace overlooking the busy harbor in Cannes, I met with Gerald Pisano, the director of the Hotel Splendid, a magnificent property that’s the oldest hotel in Cannes, a city that lives on tourism and has more than 100 hotels.
Gerald, looking dapper in a blue suit and tie, told me that he’s been here for eleven years, and the storied hotel has been owned by two families. Nearly every day they get calls from chains who want to take over but they remain steadfast and independent.
Their location right overlooking the water and the expensive yachts tied to the docks was once directly waterfront. But like so many seaside cities, much of the area in front of the water today was filled in to make more land, so there is a large expanse of open area in front of the hotel.
This area later in the summer will be a beautiful new pedestrian promenade with many trees and Pétanque courts, a game similar to bocce that is popular in Provence.
Wires and utilities are being buried, and the space will provide an attractive area to stroll where cars won’t be in the way. It’s a trend all over Europe, putting the parking underground and bringing spaces where only people are allowed.
Though it’s unsightly now, this improvement will really make the downtown even nicer.
Gerald told me about the film critic Roger Ebert, who came to this hotel for 35 years covering the famous Cannes Film Festival, who always stayed in the same room.
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of May’s annual film fest to this “international village” with only about 75,000 residents. Tourism simply is it, and the hundreds of restaurants and shops all cater to those coming in for the festival (3,000 journalists attend each year) and those who travel her by superyacht, docking in one of the two large marinas here.
Gerald said the city’s mayor David Lisnard has had a big impact with projects like the pedestrian area, called Vegetalisation of the Allees de la Liberte, and there is another large project building a new shopping area, cinema and hotels on a point at the far northern side of Cannes. He said that the hotel is incredibly busy nearly all year, except in January and February.
During the worst times of the Pandemic, he said they saw wild pigs strolling into the city, since it was such a ghost city! But today, the boom is on, and people really want to travel, so he expects this wonderful downtown hotel to remain busy and full every day.