Belmond, the brand that until earlier this week was Orient-Express Hotels and Resorts, is planning a big international expansion.
The company, which has 45 luxury hotels and “travel experiences” worldwide, changed its name on Monday (see news, February 24).
John Scott, Belmond’s CEO, said he is aiming to open new properties in gateway cities such as London and New York.
He told Business Traveller that the new brand “will help us get management contracts. We need to be in New York, London and we are very focused on that. Hopefully, our first announcement will be this year and we’re working really hard here in London to try and find something.”
He said that part of the problem with the Orient-Express brand was that regular guests who stayed at one of Orient-Express hotel were unaware that the company owned and managed another 45 properties worldwide.
Scott contrasted this with other well-known hotel brands.
He said: “What people don’t realise is that when you stay in branded hotels by the large companies such as Hilton and Marriott, not only do they not own the hotel, they often don’t manage it.
“Contrast that with us, where the guest doesn’t realise we not only have these properties, but we own and manage them. You could ask some well-informed people who love our hotels to name some of the properties, and they might struggle to name many of them.
“That has to change. We are a great collection of properties, and if you love staying with one of those properties, we want to tell you about the other ones.”
Scott said that only around three per cent of Orient-Express guests stayed in more than one property, and that he aims to encourage guests who enjoy one hotel to visit other Belmond properties when they travel around the world.
So, for that reason, Belmond will begin to target business travellers.
Scott said: “There’s a blending of business and leisure and I think our properties will do well with that. We have city hotels such as the Ritz Madrid, and if [business travellers] take a couple of extra days or bring their spouse, then we can see we ought to be catching 50 per cent business and 50 per cent leisure.
“Today, we have a few city hotels but I think we need more. We are predominantly a leisure company today, but I think that could change.”
Encouraging this will be a recognition programme, Scott said.
“There’s no doubt now that if you are a regular in one of the hotels, you will be recognised, but we need to do that across the portfolio because presently we have a problem systems-wise being able to do that at the moment. It’s a focus.”
Responding to criticism about changing the brand from Orient-Express to Belmond, Scott said: “I’ve seen it on social media, ‘Why would we do that?’ Well, it’s the wrong question. The right one is, ‘What’s right for the company?’
“We want to celebrate the individual name of the hotel — the Ritz, the Cipriani — but we now have a name that complements those great hotels and that we own, which we didn’t with the Orient-Express brand [it was under licence from French rail company SNCF].
“You want to own your brand, that way you can invest in it. And you have to remember, we aren’t a train company. We have luxury trains, but we own all but a couple of our properties where we have a joint venture, and that speaks strongly to other owners when we say, ‘We can manage your hotel for you, we understand what it’s like to be an owner and we also are very good at managing.'”