Monday 16 March 3.30pm
Rhodri Pazzi-Axworthy, real estate partner, Nabarro
Arriving at Cannes at first nothing really looked different from any other year – the expanses of additional tented exhibition space, the hoardings bearing the names of various agents and banks adorning the front of various hotels and the sun glinting off the boats bobbing along the Jette Albert Eduoard.
Then you notice it. This year there really was less of everything. The branding was more discrete, like a huge banner which usually takes up the whole of one side of the Palais de Festival, not there at all. The boats were still there, but the only law firms represented in the harbour this year were Freshfields, Norton Rose, Orrick, Jones Day and Lovells, although there were a number of local authorities that chose to splash out on a boat for the week. This year the tent on the edge of Le Croisette, which used to be the pride of a global law firm, carried Savills’ branding, and where were all the people? You could get a seat in Café Roma at almost any time of the day or night and the restaurants were half full. And the hotel bars, which in recent years have been no-go areas without a Mipim pass, were freely accessed by anyone willing to pay €7.50 for a coke.
This is counter-intuitive. The efficient delegates who booked months in advance were paying much more than their counterparts who booked a couple of week’s ago. Flights, accommodation and passes were all cheaper as the event got underway than they were six months ago. Even the ‘Earlybird’ offers on passes didn’t come close to matching the Bogof deal reputedly being offered last week.
There were fewer parties across the board with most opting to limit their entertainment to lunches and dinners for a number of select guests and hold face to face meetings (over coffee, tea or water), set up in the last few weeks when the usual inbox full of party invitations failed to materialise. Could this be a return to the original purpose of Mipim?
However the sun was shining in Cannes and, although this seemed to buoy the delegates, there was also a cooling breeze (strong enough to blow the temporary partitioning at a beach front restaurant over onto a number of Nabarro’s lunchtime guests on Tuesday – fortunately with no casualties). The talk this year was of equity-starved properties chasing new cash (rather than the wall of cash which was chasing property two years ago) and that opportunities for those who have the cash must be “just round the corner”. Let’s hope they’re right.