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MIPIM at 30

MIPIM has celebrated its 30th Birthday.  There are a hardy few who will tell you that they have attended every one. I can’t claim that, but I did first attend in 1996 and have witnessed its teenage excesses and more recent sobering into maturity.

Back in 1996 the Palais was about half its current size. All the stands were in the basement exhibition space, earning it the nickname “The Bunker”. There were no extra tents or pavilions along the harbour or the Croisette. There were boats, but not so many and not so big. The event seemed to be dominated by the Brits. Bar Roma was overflowing with a cheery crowd of “suits” more normally seen around Hanover Square and the Martinez Bar was the place to be seen (so some things don’t change….)

Over the years the attendance number went up and up and the crowd became much more international. Before the global financial crisis struck, it seemed as though everyone was competing to have the biggest boat or to hold the most lavish and talked about party. The tents on the beach arrived with late night concerts, rock bands and partying into the night. Even as the GFC started to bite there was one last hurrah, like the band playing on the deck of the Titanic, and then….austerity. Suddenly the flash parties were cancelled and people had to start to justify their attendance. It all became a much more sober affair with full schedules of meetings during the day and working dinners in the evening. Let’s not be too puritanical though, there were still plenty of lunches, dinners and cocktail parties to allow for some relaxed networking.

At 30 MIPIM has achieved a balance between its more serious side of pre-arranged meetings and a more fun social networking side. The conference agenda is improved with numerous panel discussions and talks on current topics. Don’t forget this is a trade fair too with hundreds of exhibitors and stands to visit. Visitors to the Hogan Lovells stand this year were able to view the video launching our new global thought leadership product, Real Estate Horizons, pick up our publications and take home a Hogan Lovells duck – pearl this year for the 30th Anniversary.

But there is one issue that has been there from the start and is still there: diversity. The faces you see when you walk around are largely white and middle class and predominantly male. The gender balance is starting to improve and over the last few years the number of ladies events has multiplied. Like the real estate industry more generally, it still has a long way to go though to achieve a wider diversity balance. At the London First dinner celebrating Women in Property we debated the role that reputation plays in our view of different aspects of the industry and it is true that MIPIM has a reputation which deters some women from wanting to attend, but until more women do attend, it is not going to get better. I really encourage any woman in the real estate industry to attend if they get the chance.

Apart from diversity, the other main theme of the week was Brexit and the damage that the continued lack of certainty is doing to the investment market. Most of the people I spoke to said that they and other international investors would not do a transaction in the UK at the moment, but would wait until there was clarity on the UK’s position (whenever that may be). The UK and London in particular is still seen in the longer term as a top investment location though. I spoke on a panel at the invitation of Estates Gazette on The Power of Big Brands in Big Cities and the London brand combined with the brand of the different developments and geographic areas in it and their occupiers is still compelling.

Perhaps the weather in Cannes was the best indicator of what is to come: Sunny but with cold blustery winds?