The Monte-Carlo Beach marks the beginning of summer tourism
We all remember the famous poster by Jean-Gabriel Domergue on which a woman’s elegant silhouette is accompanied by a striking slogan: “The most beautiful women in the world summer in Monte-Carlo”!
Summer holidays were not self-evident in the 19th and early 20th centuries, where the French Riviera was first and foremost a place to spend the winter. In the 1920s, a new kind of tourism came about in the summer, and the Société des Bains de Mer found itself poorly equipped to cater to this new trend. The Monte-Carlo Beach was thus built to welcome summer guests.
Built in 1928 in the pure Art Deco style, the hotel boasted a swimming pool in the latest design along with luxurious accommodation, the sea and excellent marine equipment.
The extravagant Elsa Maxwell
To promote the site and attract a summertime clientele very different from its traditional guests, the Société des Bains de Mer called upon a woman whose job, although this was not yet referred to as ‘public relations’, consisted of promoting the hotel known and bringing in clients. Her name was Elsa Maxwell.
Elsa, whose career had started out as a jazz pianist, had gradually become an event planner renowned throughout Europe. She was on familiar terms with whom we now refer to as ‘the jet-set’ and joined them for parties in Venice, Rome, London, Cairo or New York.
Elsa certainly had a lot of energy but she was also quite excessive; she asked management for extravagant budgets, suggesting amenities that were each more outrageous than the last. In one of her notes, she writes about creating an artificial beach with rubber mats covered with golden sand, to compete with the hotel’s rivals: the Palm Beach in Cannes and the Lido in Venice!
Elsa was undoubtedly difficult to manage, but she fulfilled her assignment beyond all expectations.
For the inauguration of the Monte-Carlo Beach on 16 July 1928, she threw a party that could only be described as… sheer extravagance!
Early in the morning, an unlikely fleet of boats began to arrive from Cap Ferrat, Beaulieu, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Cap Martin and Menton: yachts decorated with medieval banners, houseboats, sailing boats and motor boats towing gladiators on water skis. The guests arrived in fancy dress or with their faces painted ebony black. Others had borrowed costumes from the Russian Ballet. It was completely over the top.
The party was a great success. Everyone talked about it, and thanks to Elsa, Monaco successfully entered the very closed circle of summer destinations, thus boosting its activities with the arrival of a new clientele.
The Monte-Carlo Beach today
Today, the Monte-Carlo Beach is still one of the mainstays of summer tourism in Monaco. The hotel was entirely renovated in 2009. Architecturally speaking, it recovered its original Art Deco inspiration, and its gastronomic restaurant decided to pay a well-deserved tribute to the woman in charge of its promotion in the Roaring Twenties by adopting the name of “Elsa“.