More so than the first sighting of a robin, or whether a groundhog in Pennsylvania sees his shadow (the bizarre harbinger of spring in the US), for me the annual sign that spring is on its way is the arrival of the first batch of party invitations for the Mipim international property fair in Cannes. The early-bird invitations made their first appearance in my inbox weeks ago and they are now trickling in one by one.
But it remains a trickle at this stage and not yet a deluge, and I will be very curious about the eventual volume of the flow. Not because I am in such dire need of free champagne (although not to dissuade anyone from offering it to me either, mind) but because the hospitality at Mipim is also a strong indicator of market sentiment and optimism. One can read the mood of half the economies in the world just by cruising around the stands at the Palais des Festivals, by dropping in on drinks receptions and other such events, or even by counting corporate yachts in the marina.
This will be the tenth time I've attended Mipim and in that time span fortunes have waxed and waned, and the global economy has gone from bubble to bust and back again. And the party atmosphere in Cannes has always ebbed and flowed with the times.
My expectation is for a somewhat muted affair this year. Europe is under huge strain from the immigration crisis while violence in the Levant looms uncomfortably closeby. The UK is mulling an exit from the EU having narrowly kept its own union together a year and a half ago. Host country France is reeling from devastating terrorist attacks while its neighbours brace themselves for the same. Russia is suffering from low oil prices while pitting itself in the midst of Syria's conflict as tensions in Ukraine linger on. Turkey is battling the spillover effects of the trouble in Syria in every respect and its internal politics are worrying observers. Poland, the stalwart of central and eastern Europe and an economic success story of two decades' standing, has suddenly shown a side to its politics that is making Brussels and most of the West none too pleased. Latin America is plagued by the outbreak of the Zika virus, while Asia – and almost everywhere else – is terrified of contagion should the Chinese economy turn anaemic.
It’s all enough to deflate the party balloons and keep the corks firmly in their bottles. Or, maybe, drive everyone to drink. To quote French poet and playwright Paul Claudel: “In the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of champagne."
Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: email@example.com