Will Hyatt Buy the Former Orient-Express Hotel Chain Belmond?

Four years ago Orient-Express Hotels rebranded as Belmond. They had been licensing the name Orient-Express, and they found that while the name seemed familiar (because of the train) it wasn’t really associated with the chain and didn’t drive bookings. Although it’s not clear that Belmond served them better.

Orient-Express is now an Accor brand. And Belmond is putting themselves up for sale.

Accor could be a buyer, they’re trying to build the Orient-Express brand and could pick up twice as many hotels as their current 2025 goal and goodness knows they buy everything else.

Hyatt is mentioned as a potential buyer, it’s hard to find too many hotel companies that have the resources to acquire a small luxury chain and for whom it would be worthwhile. Big players wouldn’t see three dozen hotels as moving the needle, though Hilton for instance could decide it would be a way to jump start Curio Collection or if they needed more than just one LXR Collection hotel.

Belmond would be a fabulous addition to Hyatt, from this consumer’s perspective. They have half a dozen luxury properties in Italy including the Hotel Cipriani in Venice. There are six properties in Peru, 3 in the U.S., and five in Southeast Asia (Bali, Koh Samui, Yangon, Luang Prabang, and Siem Reap). There are 3 hotels in Botswana and one in Capetown.


Belmond Cipriani, Venice

Complicating matters is that this isn’t a pure hotel play. They operate several trains, including the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express sleeper — and the 21 Club in Manhattan. Hyatt could certainly sell themselves that this is part of the same lifestyle play that they’re making with the Miraval and Exhale Spas acquisition.

(HT: @HH_Cash)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. That would be a fantastic acquisition. I’ve stayed at Charleston Place and the Monasterio. Charleston Place is good, but perhaps out of place in Charleston with all of its brass and polished marble. The Monasterio is absolutely magnificent.

    And I note that some of their properties would be fantastic deals at Category 7.

  2. Hyatt should ley interest rates finish the upcycle before making any acquisitions, then buy aggressively. Not complicated, though i bankers do their best to make it complicated.

  3. Those prices for the luxury sleeper trains are RIDICULOUS. $9,100 for 2 people for an overnight 20 hour train Venice-Paris/London. You can take a daytime train (so you can see the mountains) in 10 hours for $360 for 2 people in first class.

  4. I struggle to see how Hyatt would fit this in or even manage these unique properties. Belmond struggles partially because the the properties (and trains) are each such a unique proposition.

    In addition many of these properties start at a price point significantly beyond even Park Hyatt.

    Finally, they are all the polar opposite of the generally minimalist, Japanese-influenced aesthetic Hyatt has so far cultivated in nearly all Park Hyatt properties and most Grand Hyatts as well. I am not sure how I see these working except as a separate ‘collection’ that’s effectively managed independently but who knows, have been surprised before.

  5. Superb hotel properties, especially Charleston Place here. Also, the always great 21 Club thrown in, which can never be replicated.

    As long as the Orient-Express trains operate profitably, why not continue? Actually, Hyatt should use its political prowess in the U.S. to introduce the Orient-=Express train service concept to initially assume Amtrak’s first class, related dining and lounge F&B services, and marketing. Attaining the inevitable success would enable the complete takeover of Amtrak and change the heavy corporate overhead mentality of a state-owned enterprise to be agile and customer experience focused.

  6. There is a beautiful Belmond – Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas – in the National Park on the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls. Gorgeous property in a gorgeous setting and truly first rate service and dining and atmosphere. Everything about this property is extraordinary. If a major chain buys the Belmond hotel chain and this hotel is included in the sale, I hope it would not change the quality and magic of this property.

  7. C’mon Gary – that photo doesn’t in any represent the Belmond Cipriani Venice and wasn’t taken even remotely close to the hotel…(if you need actual (free) photos of the hotel by all means PM me…I was there a few weeks ago)…

    …IMHO would rather see Belmond go Hyatt brand rather than Accor (a motley collection of properties with very poor consistency in brand – some great and some awful under the same collection)…

    ….FWIW Belmond still plays heavily on the Cipriani name (e.g. currently running a 60 years anniversary theme) even though not part of the Cipriani suite of various international ventures (see Cipriani.com) – aaahhh those first flower bud artichoke hearts from Torcello Island on special at Harry’s Dolci Cafe Giudecca are divine…

  8. @Kerry, I agree that integration of the hotels into Hyatt, whether Park Hyatt or another brand, would be a challenge. It’s the core challenge that has plagued Belmond and its predecessor Orient-Express from the beginning, as the highly individual hotels were acquired from a wildly diverse set of owners/developers (La Residencia Majorca from Richard Branson, the Cipriani from the Guinness family, Hotel das Cataratas from Varig, Reids Palace from the Blandys, etc.). The hotels used to have their own individual web sites. The Belmond rebranding was supposed to rationalize all of that (and given them ownership of their own brand, rather than rental from SCNF), but the individual nature of the hotels still limits potential economies of scale. Orient-Express was Jimmy Sherwood’s labor of love and never suited to life as a public company.

    About 5 years ago, there was serious speculation that Orient-Express would merge with the Indian Hotels Company (i.e., Taj), but those discussions never went anywhere. I still wonder if Rosewood might be a better fit for the Belmond properties.

    By themselves, Belmond’s Italy properties represent the most amazing collection of hotels on the market since the CIGA sale (Gritti Palace, Hotel Danieli, etc.) to ITT Sheraton. I think that sale was instructive. As the CIGA hotels did not fit into any brand, ITT Sheraton used them as a foundation for its nascent Luxury Collection, which has always remained a grab-bag of aging historic properties and other one-offs with no coherent identity. Ironically, it was Marriott that lost the bidding for CIGA.

    Interestingly, Hyatt still owns a higher percentage of its hotels than Marriott or Hilton, which mostly hold management contracts. As Belmond owns or co-owns most of its hotels, its approach might actually fit with that of Hyatt.

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