By Michaela Cabrera
CANNES, France (Reuters) - After COVID-19 put paid to their summer showpiece in 2020, relieved Cannes hotel and restaurant are gearing up for next month's return of the world's biggest film festival as bookings rise - but business as usual it isn't.
This year's event runs from July 6-17 and, with France's coronavirus curfew lifted last week, visitors should - albeit under strict social distancing and infection control norms - be able to mingle round the clock.
"(We are expecting) a real rebirth," said Anny Courtade from the busy terrace of her beachfront restaurant, Plage du Festival.
"Last year, we had a season without a festival, so for us it is truly a bright spell for the economy, and for the city."
Sean Penn and Wes Anderson are among the Hollywood heavy hitters vying for the festival's Palme d'Or but, with some international travel restrictions still in place, a greater than usual proportion of visitors are expected to be French rather than high-spending foreigners.
"Before, 50% of our clients were international, and 50% local," Lucile Falgeiers told Reuters in the chic lobby of the Croisette Beach Cannes MGallery Hotel, where she is managing director.
"We are of course missing the Americans, the British, the Italians, who were here during (previous) festivals."Courtade takes the "glass-half-full" view - "there will not be a single thing to worry about on the (health and safety) issue" - though the dearth of guests from abroad rankles."There are still a lot of (foreign) tourists missing...," she said. "We will welcome them with open arms, because without them, the Cote d'Azur is not the Cote d'Azur."
(reporting by Michaela Cabrera and Eric Gaillard; editing by John Stonestreet)