The world's biggest media event, after the Olympic Games, has been affected by the global economic crisis. Much of the hotel industry in Cannes is having to offer perks to attract customers in advance of the 62nd edition of the festival.
AFP - Sparkling wine instead of champagne, onion tart for foie gras: Cannes is preparing for a bling-free film festival next month as the movie industry sobers up in tune with the global downturn.
"We're experiencing an unprecedented world crisis and it's also affecting the Riviera and Cannes," said Michel Chevillon, head of the hotel association in the Mediterranean city, gearing up to host the 62nd edition of the festival.
Star power and prestige have helped Cannes limit the damage compared to some other big industry events.
Crisis or no crisis, the usual cast of A-list stars, hot directors and Hollywood studios are jetting in for the top international film showcase on May 13-24, the world's biggest media event after the Olympic Games.
But belt-tightening is in the air, with industry players trimming back on the number of delegates, champagne-fuelled parties and expensive extras.
"Companies are sending fewer people, for shorter periods," Chevillon said.
Jacques Dessange, the official Cannes hairdresser, is bringing 15 stylists instead of the 20 who curled and pressed the locks of the stars in 2008, and has slashed its budget by 20 percent.
And cosmetics giant L'Oreal has called off its annual ad campaign on the front of the Hotel Martinez, a seafront Art Deco palace where its ambassadors, including Indian megastar Aishwarya Rai, stay for the festival.
Right at the top end of the hotel business, the 412 rooms of the Martinez -- including its sumptuous penthouse suite -- have been fully booked since February for all 12 days of the festival.
Two clients have paid an eye-popping 36,000 euros (47,000 dollars) a night, against 10,000 euros off-season, to share the panoramic sea views and exclusive rooftop jacuzzi of the penthouse, as big as four tennis courts.
"It's business as usual," said the Martinez' manager Richard Schilling.
But lower down the chain, the bulk of the Cannes hotel industry is feeling the effect of the downturn, forcing them to offer perks like unlimited WiFi access, happy hours at the bar or free breakfast to attract customers.
Seventy percent have frozen their room rates compared to last year, and many are taking bookings for less than the full 12-day period, something normally unheard of at festival time, Chevillon said.
Date created : 2009-04-20