‘I avoid MIPIM like the plague,’ says Bennetts Associates founder Rab Bennetts. ‘The thought of all these blokes – and it is nearly all blokes – going from champagne party to champagne party makes my stomach turn.’
The international property fair, held annually in Cannes, has got itself a bad reputation. Even the press kit for this year’s event, which runs from 10-13 March, uses the word ‘notoriety’ to describe the carnival of developers, architects, agents, hoteliers and authorities that descend on the French Riviera each spring.
Over the last 20 years, the notion that MIPIM was primarily a place to do business has been eroded by the growing exuberance of the party scene. However, the world’s economy has changed significantly in the last 12 months and this year’s MIPIM, without the excesses born out of the global property boom, will be very different.
Delegate numbers are expected to be at least a third down on the 29,000 attendees at last year’s event, and many lavish dinners and beachfront socials have already been scrapped. Even the event’s newsletter has been trimmed from four issues to three.
‘Hopefully we can get back to MIPIM being a properly focused business development trade fair and not just an excuse for a party, which has been its downfall in the past,’ says Graham Hickson-Smith, head of marketing and business development at 3DReid.
So should practices spend thousands of pounds sending people to Cannes, on the off-chance of winning work?
There are those who remain unconvinced. As Graham Morrison of Allies and Morrison says: ‘It’s possibly a slightly pompous position to take, but we never have, nor would we want to win a project by going to a cocktail party.’
Worryingly for event organiser Reed Midem, there is also a growing number of ‘stay-away’ organisations – firms that have previously jetted out to France but will not be doing so this year. The likes of Urban Splash have no plans to ‘officially’ send anybody out. Neither has European developer Orco, nor Cartwright Pickard Architects. Practice director James Pickard says: ‘MIPIM can be fun and can generate new contacts. However since the collapse of commercial sector work we have decided that the time and money would be better spent consolidating relationships with our existing clients.’