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Is IHG planning to buy Belmond (the old Orient Express Hotels) to add a true luxury brand?

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IHG, which operates InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo etc, has been talking recently about its desire to buy a ‘true’ luxury hotel brand.

Whilst InterContinental does have some excellent five star hotels, they are primarily business focused city centre properties.  The few InterContinental resort hotels, mainly in Asia, are generally well regarded but sit a little oddly in the context of the broader brand.

I have seen a few names banded around recently, including – laughably – Mandarin Oriental and Peninsula.  I struggle to think of anything that would be worse for the luxury hotel sector than to see IHG get its hands on either of those.  The Ritz Carlton was sucked into Marriott many years ago and with very negative consequences, although there have been signs in the last couple of years that the brand is regaining some of its former lustre.

On Thursday The Times ran a story which DOES make sense.  IHG is rumoured to be in talks to buy Belmond.

Whilst the Belmond name may not be familiar to you, you have probably heard of its old name, Orient Express Hotels.  The company rebranded a couple of years ago after a dispute with the ultimate owners of the Orient Express name.

I think that Belmond and IHG would make a good couple.

Belmond tells people that it is a luxury hotel brand.  It certainly runs some iconic properties which are world famous.  However, to those of us in the industry, it is a bit of a joke.  It would never be discussed in the same breath as Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental or Aman.

This means that IHG couldn’t mess it up.  There is only upside – the hotels would benefit from being part of a wider group, there could be some shuffling of the leisure-focused InterContinental hotels into Belmond and we would benefit from being able to redeem IHG Rewards Club points at some high end leisure hotels.

Here are some of the highlights of the Belmond portfolio:

Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro

Hotel das Cataratas, Iguassu Falls (awesome photo below, click to enlarge)

Belmond Iguassu Falls

La Résidence d’Angkor, Siem Reap

Hotel Cipriani, Venice

Hotel Splendido, Portofino

Villa San Michele, Florence

Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu

Reid’s Palace, Madeira

Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg

Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town (photo above)

La Residencia, Mallorca

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire

….. amongst others.  They are also taking over a hotel in Chelsea later this year.

The only problem here is that, judging by the speed with which IHG integrated Kimpton Hotels, it is likely to be 2021 before we will be able to redeem even if a deal is done quickly ……

Comments (24)

  • Talay says:

    As someone who started staying at La Residencia in Deia in the 1990s I was dismayed when Orient Express took it over and proceeded to plunder the good name and facilities with far too many new rooms which put excessive strain on the once overly luxurious free space and pool.

    It was already a cash cow but they have proceeded to milk it to the n’th degree.

    I no longer stay there as though these days I can far more easily afford the €30 plus it costs for a simple drink I would rather give my business to a hotel which deserves it. However, non can match the beauty of La Residencia of yesteryear and IHG buying Belmond won’t change that.

  • Boris says:

    The fact you mention Aman in the same breath as MO and FS is questionable

    On balance of my own experience I would take my Belmond stays vs Mandarin stays in terms of enjoyment

  • kelly says:

    I’m with you Rob – Belmond would be a great fit; they aren’t the best set of hotels in the world and very over priced for what they offer to be honest in my personal opinion. We were shocked when we visited Reid’s Palace in Madeira; every blogger raves about it and we got there and was like…REALLLLLY!

  • Genghis says:

    OT (perhaps @andrewseftel specifically) How do I go about redeeming Shangri-La GC points in the restaurant without redeeming a set amount for a voucher? I can’t find anything about it online.