Can our generation create our own “IT” place? I have often wondered if my Y generation will create any new “it” places. I have come to realize that it takes about 30 years for an “it” place to develop and be truly hot, so even if we start now, we still wouldn’t have our generation’s “it” place until we are in into our 60s! That’s too long, right? But maybe that is the problem. Our generation is sort of the first generation that is so obsessed with immediate satisfaction. We can’t wait 30 years to develop our own “it” places, so we just keep heading back to the ones created by our parents to have fun! Much easier than doing the heavy lifting ourselves, only for our kids to benefit in 30 years!
So how does a place become an “it” place? What does it take? Let’s narrow it down to the best and most popular places to vacation in Europe. Like all good things in life, there are only a few. There are only a handful of these places around the world, and everyone seems to want a piece of Saint-Tropez, Courchevel, Ibiza, Mykonos, Sardinia, Mallorca, Megève, St. Moritz, Gstaad, and Bodrum.
How does it start? Well, an “it” place is similar to a powerful brand/product. It needs to be discovered, promoted, validated, and then advertised. It starts with the beauty of the place, first and foremost, which is discovered by a select few with an eye for charm and location. Like all prized real estate areas, the “it” place usually has some constraining geographic characteristics such as a limited amount of land or the area is hard to access. Second, it takes the right person to set the trend, to pave the way. Generally speaking, this work has been done by the most talented and artistic among us, who happen in many cases to be gay, as well as by the hippies, and then to a certain extent by certain elites with unlimited access (the most famous celebrities in the world) or unrestricted budgets (the wealthiest among us). Finally, in order to achieve “it” status, the place tends to need at least one iconic hotel, or several chic boutique properties.
Mykonos was sniffed out and then popularized by the gay community. Don’t ask me why, but they found it and unveiled it to their other fashionable friends who wanted to party, and the rest is history. Even after decades of partying, it is a magical locale. Everything about Mykonos (and all of the “it” places that I will mention) is so well known to this readership that it would be silly for me to even mention cliché places that I love.
The perfect example of a celebrity having “made” an “it” place would be Brigitte Bardot, who singlehandedly made Saint-Tropez the hottest place to be in the summer to party. Decades later, and even despite the inevitable trashy people, Saint-Tropez is still a mythical place which attracts an exceptional crowd during many weeks of the summer.
It is worth noting that this element of extravagant trashy people flocking to a lovely place is a sad constant for all “it” places at a certain stage, and which causes the trendsetters to seek out the next “it” place, hopefully…
Another example of celebrity influence is Mallorca in Spain. While it became fashionable at first because the Spanish royal family has its holiday home (Marivent Palace) there, it reached a new level when Michael Douglas took a shine to it.
In other cases, a lack of celebrity has played a role in the development of an “it” place. Disinterested in the extravagance of Courchevel and the celebrity party scene of St. Mortiz, the Rothschild family invested and developed much of Megève in the French Alps. They attracted their friends and a circle of other French families to this alpine village for its picturesque charm and village life, and the magic continues to this day, but in large part the town’s “it” status owes much to the Rothschild imprimatur.
Back in the 1960s, the trendsetting group was the hippies, who represented counterculture, free love, music, and a great time. Take for example Ibiza, which was a free-love outpost that hosted all of the biggest musicians in the wildest way that we cannot possibly imagine. Rumor has it that Bob Dylan lived in the lighthouse in nearby Formentera, partying with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Jethro Tull, who were all regulars. Ibiza has been at the center of Western society’s music culture since 1963, which continues to this day in the vibrant music scene which makes or breaks the biggest electronic and DJ acts in the world every summer.
Sardinia could be another case study. Prince Karim Aga Khan had it all, at least in superficial terms: money, power, title, and beautiful women surrounding him. He built Porto Cervo in Sardinia in the 1960s. I don’t know if he coined “Costa Smeralda” or “Emerald Coast,” but I wouldn’t doubt it. Not that it’s not lovely, but this smacks of the ingenious branding that is required to make an “it” place, and that’s exactly what the Aga Khan had in mind. He created an exclusive holiday village for the rich and famous with high-end fashion boutiques, expensive restaurants, and luxury hotels. He served as the trendsetter and the ruler, involved in approving what building materials his friends the Agnellis could use in constructing their villas!
Where gays, hippies, celebrities, royals, and the super-rich vacation are the most amazing parties! The party people take “it” places and make them truly HOT. The reputation of the place then spreads along the chain of six degrees of separation, as the stories of amazing party nights get passed on down the line. The myth begins to develop. The brand is established. The followers of the “it” place chase the dream, wanting to be a part of the brand, and then they perpetuate the fantasy to their friends, and so on.
Is there an Aga Khan among the trendy royals out there who is going to stake his or her claim to some beautiful island and fashion it into the next Costa Smeralda? Is there a new Rothschild or other scion who is investing in a small village to protect its natural beauty for his own enjoyment, as well as the chance to attract his friends to the next hot spot? Will we ever have a bombshell like Brigitte Bardot from our generation who will make a small fishing village into the hottest summer party spot? Do they or we even have the patience to do any of this, to make something out of nothing, to enjoy the slow passion for a place as it develops and attracts our friends over 20 to 30 years?
I think we do. I think it is happening in three or four places around the world right now. One small place in Greece comes to mind. Another in Brazil. Another in Africa. A final one in South America. But if I told you, it might happen too quickly or get ruined by greedy real estate developers! Let’s speak in 30 years…
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