Global luxury experiences chain Belmond wants to welcome more guests from India
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: September 30, 2015
For those whose life consists of flitting from one luxury to another in the most singular destinations across the globe, the name Belmond is no stranger. Just in case you missed, here is a crucial recent global event to connect the dots. Belmond Hotel Cipriani, incidentally the first hotel of the group, was hired by George Clooney for his marriage to Amal Alamuddin.
Belmond, which is a global collection of hotels, resorts, trains and river cruises, about 46 in total spread over 23 countries, is hoping to entice the well heeled Indian traveller as well.
In the world of luxury hospitality, Belmond – literally ‘beautiful world’ – albeit a made up word, is a fairly new name. Especially as the company was earlier known as Orient-Express Hotels Ltd and only changed its name to Belmond in 2014. Yes, the legendary Orient Express is part of the portfolio, but most people did not understand that there was lot more on offer, stressed Andrea Filippi - Executive Director - Worldwide Sales, Belmond during a recent visit to India.
Mr Filippi led a six member global Belmond team on its first India road show in Mumbai and Delhi. Belmond is hopeful of trebling Indian revenue share to their properties over the next three years. It currently gets about two per cent revenue share from India, and is aiming to triple it by 2018.
Belmond is a byword for luxury hospitality, stressed Mr Filippi. The experiences are tailor made and customised for individuals, or couples or families. However, given the fast spreading reputation of BFIW – big fat Indian weddings, that’s also a market he wants to cater to. Though he is quick to point out that most of the Belmond hotels are not equipped to handle a thousand guests! Instead he wants to look at more selective, high-end weddings. Asni Muharam, representing Belmond Asia-Pacific Hotels, says the Belmond Jimbaran Puri in Bali is already popular with Indians coming for honeymoon or even weddings.
Belmond is present in the vicinity – it has six hotels in Asia, besides the Eastern & Oriental Express that runs through Southeast Asia, and in what may come as a surprise, two luxury riverboats in Myanmar, a market they entered almost two decades ago! However, there are no plans to come to India yet, though Mr Filippi admits Mumbai and Delhi would be good locations for Belmond addresses.
In what is also a fairly unusual model, Belmond owns and operates most of its properties. However, as part of a new strategy, Belmond recently has started getting into the managed hotel space. Belmond Cadogan Hotel in London’s tony Knightsbridge will be the first managed hotel for the group.
Mr Filippi said the name change had helped and guests are better able to connect with the brand now. A lot of Belmond’s offerings are in Italy. This includes hotels such as the Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence, Belmond Hotel Caruso in Amalfi Coast and Belmond Splendido Mare in Portofino, besides the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. “We have been trendsetters in bringing luxury to new countries,” says Mr Filippi, pointing to long-standing presence in countries such as Peru, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Botswana, St Martin and others.
Its other famous European outposts include Belmond La Residencia, Mallorca, Spain; Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg, Russia; and Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire, England. The group has many famous hotels, such as the Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa; and Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya, Mexico.
In Peru, its enviable collection includes the Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, a former Inca era monastery, and Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel within the Machu Picchu, points out Maritza Montero from Belmond hotels in Peru. “More and more Indians are coming to our hotels in Peru,” she says.
Sjefke Jansen, General Manager, Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, agrees, saying his St Petersburg hotel welcomes a few Indian groups annually. With a view to get more Indians, the hotel has just opened Azia, a pan Asian restaurant, which serves Indian food, and has an Indian chef on hand.
Elena Lamanna, representing Belmond hotels in Italy & Mallorca, admits the company is exploring the Indian market. “We are seeing individual bookings and are getting wedding queries,” she says.
Belmond is known for creating bespoke, authentic experiences, says Mr Filippi. Belmond’s bespoke experiences include floating diving platform 300 metres above sea level in Amalfi, or water lagoons in Venice. Its forthcoming highlight - Cape Town’s Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel has teamed up with Alexander McCall Smith to stage No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Musical, premiering on October 6, 2015 in the landmark hotel. McCall Smith fans, the Belmond experience could well increase your appreciation of Precious Ramotswe.
Suman Tarafdar is a journalist and writer based in Delhi. He has worked with a number of leading Indian media organisations, and writes on various aspects of luxury, lifestyle and culture. When not writing to earn a living, he likes to travel, read, cook, chat, shop and watch all kinds of soppy stuff on TV. Yes, current politics bothers him.