My first introduction to Monaco or rather the Principality of Monaco, located beside the Mediterranean Sea in the world-renowned Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) was during my days as a student of Tourism. Thirty years down the line, with my professional engagement as a Travel Journalist, I have had my share of brushes with the French Riviera.
With an area of just 2 sq.Kms., Monaco boasts of inestimable wealth, having one of the highest GDP-per-capita rankings in the world. It is well-known fact that Monaco has more millionaires residing than in any other city in the world. An estimated one-third of Monaco’s residents are ultra-rich. No wonder, this part of the French Riviera has been the playground of the rich and the wealthy ever since the -twentieth century.
The French Riveria was one of the world’s first modern resort regions and in the days of yore served as a winter resort, catering to the discerning needs of the upper-class Britishers. The introduction of railways in the 19th century forever changed the destiny of this region. It soon evolved as the playground of the aristocrats and the crème-de-la-crème of society. From Queen Victoria to the Prince of Wales, the royal families simply loved the French Riviera.
By the 20th century, it was a much-preferred holiday destination of artists and scholars and some of the luminaries of that era like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, and others of their ilk began frequenting this stunningly beautiful region. The ultra-rich Americans were not to be left behind either.
The huge popularity of the French Riveria compelled the town and country planners to sit back and take notice. After World War II, this part of France was gradually developed into a state-of-the-art convention center. According to our gracious host Maria Bruni, many top-ranking Hollywood superstars have their apartments here and there was a buzz doing the rounds that Elton John was in town.
There is a certain throb here at Nice and the amazing part of this speck of paradise is that the “Riviera” has nationalities of 163 countries and it is a fact that non-French nationals outnumber the native people.
Interestingly, Monaco does have an India connect …….Vijay Mallaya as the Force India boss was renowned for his grandiose parties during the Monaco Grand Prix. Yeah!
I am talking of the 2008-2009 era when the ‘Who’s who’ of Monaco and Formula One world like HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and his entourage as well as the likes of McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost and Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery and many other world-renowned celebrities have been spotted partying at Mallaya’s extravagant parties at Monaco.
The flamboyant fugitive Indian billionaire was once quoted as saying – “Monaco is about glamour – and I am paying tribute to that. The rest is about having fun before the competition heats up on Saturday and Sunday!”
Monaco’s India connections aren’t just limited to billionaire business barons; in fact, the city has witnessed several big fat Indian weddings with white horses and elephants parading on the streets of Monaco. Some years back, an exclusive wooden temple from India was set up at the Mecca of Monaco’s Glamour – “The Opera House”.
The mandarins of Monaco’s tourism have been wooing Indian visitors which finds reflection in their marketing strategy – “A country for your wedding”, targeting affluent Indians to conduct their weddings in Monaco.
In the words of Guillaume Rose, Director, Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority – “We customise everything for the wedding, roads are blocked, special signage installed. The police are also available to us. We are only interested in big-ticket purchases.” This kind of sums up the importance that Monaco Tourism attaches to Indians.
The coming of age of the ultra-rich Indians is reflective in Monaco’s tourist statistics – Indian tourists generated 4,718 room nights out of the principality’s grand total of 850,000 room nights and tourists from India spent an average of Euro 600 per day, which is amongst Monaco’s top five spending streaks country wise. WoW!
Given the fact that the French Riveria receives 300 days of sunshine per year and with a coastline that extends to all of 115 Kms. along with numerous ski resorts has meant that this area has evolved as a major yachting center.
One of Monaco’s prized annual events is the Monaco Yacht Show and I beg to be excused, as hereto I see the gracious presence of billionaire Indians. The likes of billionaire steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal cruising in his signature uber-luxury yacht – Amevi – all of 80 meters and reportedly priced at a staggering UK Pound 113 million as of 2007 is a case in point.
It comes with a cruise speed of 26 Knots and features opulent 8 VIP staterooms, cabins, ensuite bathrooms, a jacuzzi, and two outdoor bars. There is also an exclusive pool, gym, and onboard cinema.
What a thrill it is to be in Monaco in the month of September when the annual yacht show attracts the wealthy owners and sailors, who come from all around the world to celebrate, perhaps one of the greatest yacht shows on earth! So stupendous is the Monaco Yacht Show, that at any given time, the value of the yachts exceeds a staggering four billion dollars.
Like every year, this year too, from Sept 22-25, the iconic Port Hercules hosted the Monaco Yacht Show which is symbolic of everything that is luxurious. This is the platform to purchase or charter superyachts. This year, a total of 300 exhibitors participated and more than 60 superyachts were on display, inclusive of 40 brand-new launches. All the top-ranked Superyacht manufacturers like Benetti, Feadship, Lürssen, Oceanco, etc….. were present.
This year’s show saw the introduction of the new Dockside Area, an exclusive exhibition arena reserved for companies and yacht manufacturers that are into the business of constructing superyachts. According to one yacht enthusiast – “The Dockside Area fits in perfectly with the way Monaco’s Port Hercule is divided up for the show: for several years now, each area of the exhibition has featured its own theme in order to better meet the visitors’ expectations.”
The essence of this year’s Yacht Show was on diversity and the discerning visitors were treated to two brand new exhibitions – Quai l’Hirondelle, dedicated to sailing vessels, and The second one – Yacht Design & Innovation Hub: an exclusive arena for yacht design projects where visitors get a rare chance to interact directly with designers.
Hats off to the ingenuity of the mandarins of Monaco Yacht Show, these two areas further complemented the Tender & Toys (Quai Antoine Ier), the luxury car section at the Car Deck (Quai Antoine Ier), luxury products (Parvis Piscine) as well as nautical equipment manufacturers segment.
In spite of the ravages of the Corona pandemic, it is an accepted fact that pleasure-seeking and self-gratifying tendencies amongst society’s ultra-rich section have increased manifold in recent times. Today, we live in an era when more than ever before, the penchant for enjoying the good life has become of paramount importance and nurturing genuine creature comfort as well as relationships that are profoundly human.
The Monaco Yacht Show is a lesson for the world on how to manage enormous wealth and making a sense of it all!
No wonder, it is not without reasons that the world’s super-rich flock, year after year to Monaco in time for the annual Yacht Show, trusting and building loyal relationships with yacht manufacturers and an opportunity to have a firsthand person-to-person interaction with persons behind some of the most extraordinary superyachts like M/Y AZZAM (180m), M/Y DILBAR (156m) or the world-famous charter yacht M/Y ARKLEY (60m).
I can’t resist quoting one professional Event’s Executive at this year’s event, who has requested not to be named thus –
“In the end, yachting is all about emotions and senses: you need to see the yacht, touch the noble materials from which it has been crafted, picture all the great times you could share on board, feel safe and at home with your family and more. Yachting is a positively human adventure in which the virtual world is intrinsically limited… An adventure that lies just past the gates of the Monaco Yacht Show”.
Being an expensive destination, there are still a lot of eating-out joints that cater to those who aren’t ultra-rich and they are higher priced than most moderate hotels and restaurants that you will find elsewhere in the world.
There are exclusive and high-end restaurants and bars galore in Monaco like the Cafe de Paris, one of the finest dining setup on the Riviera, the Casino de Monte-Carlo’s Le Bar Salle Blanche – a members-only bar,
To give you some idea of how costly a wholesome meal could cost in Monaco, here is a clue: a three-course meal in the famed Cafe de Paris could cost you as much as two hundred euros per person.
Monaco does set global standards and is renowned for luxury living. No wonder the standard of accommodations on offer is of an extremely high class. While in Monaco, look out for properties with the TLE seal of approval, which indicates the highest standards of luxury and indulgent living.
Some of Monaco’s outstanding luxury properties are – Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo Bay Hotel, Le Meridien Beach Plaza, Fairmont, Port Palace, Novotel Monte Carlo, Hotel Coloumbus Monte Carlo to name just a few.
The closest international airport to Monaco is Nice Côte d’Azur airport (NCE), located at a distance of 30 km. from the city center. The Airport is well connected by more than 100 domestic, European and long-haul airlines. Average ticket costs to Nice Cote D Azur Airport (NCE) ranges between $631 and $980 per person for economy class and $1,980 to $3,075 for first class.