Managing luxury hotels is one thing, but expanding the concept to hospitality on the rails or along the waterways takes the concept one step further. One of the major players in the river cruise and luxury train sector is Belmond, employing 1086 staff across 22 countries, and with their current expansion plans well under way, they certainly appear to be on the right track.
Hotelintel.co talked to Gary Franklin, Managing Director of Belmond Trains & Cruises, about the success of the company in becoming the dominant brand within their field, and asked whether he might be concerned about being copied by other brands. Gary emphasized the strength of Belmond’s position by explaining the allure of luxurious rail travel by way of a response.
“Thank you – we are very proud of the history and story the Eastern & Oriental Express has been able to develop. I think around the world we are seeing the growth of luxury train travel as people re-discover the charm of slow luxury and the fact that trains allow people to explore countries rather than always fly over. On board the trains you will always find interesting characters and part of the enduring charm and memories our guests take away are the friends from all over the world that they meet on board.”
Belmond currently offers iconic train journeys on three different continents: Asia, Europe, and South America, while also operating two different river cruise routes in the Burgundy region of France and along the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar.
While the traditional idea behind train travel is simply to reach one’s destination, Belmond instead invites guests to connect with the local culture, history, and people along the line, while also enjoying the comforts of life on board. Both trains and cruises make strategic stops en route so that guests are able to experience and interact with the most important and interesting parts of the country they are traveling in.
To ensure the highest standards of luxury, Belmond currently owns and operates its own luxury trains, with one in Asia, one in South America and a further four in Europe. The company’s seventh is set to make its debut later in 2016, while exciting new destinations are also in the pipeline according to Gary.
“In August 2016, Belmond is launching the first luxury sleeper train in Ireland, the Belmond Grand Hibernian. The train will be the company’s seventh train in the collection and will operate a four-night itinerary across the Republic of Ireland and a two-night journey discovering Northern Ireland, on an all-inclusive basis. The train will be based in Dublin and will be a similar product to its sister train, the Belmond Royal Scotsman based out of Edinburgh Waverley. In June 2016, the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express based in Europe will head to Berlin for the first time.”
“Across all our trains we are looking at developing new onboard experiences in 2016 such as celebrity chef ‘pop-up experiences’ which will be announced shortly.”
It would appear that the golden age of the railways is not yet a thing of the past.