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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 ……

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Comments (24)

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  • Phillip says:

    It does sound like a good fit. Das Cataratas Iguassu is one of my all time favourite hotels!

  • Andrew S says:

    For anyone that has ever stayed at and dined at Le Manoir au Quat Saisons, they will know exactly where I’m coming from here….
    Having stayed at, and dined at Monsieur Blanc’s iconic property a number of times myself, I would personally rank it as one of THE very finest in the world.
    This outstanding property and restaurant leaves any where else I have ever stayed in the world, including Intercontinentals, Conrad’s and Mandarins, standing by a mile.
    For LMAQS to become part of the faceless IHG would surely, long term, be an erosionary disaster of what it stands for.
    The only properties that come close for my money (in the UK), would be The Lanesborough or Claridges in London which, as LMAQS does, exemplify the true meaning of customer & guest service and exquisite Michelin star cuisine.
    Please, NO IHG for LMAQS!!

    • Andrew says:

      I wonder how many IHG points would be needed for a trip on the Belmond British Pullman, Royal Scotsman or the Grand Hiberian?

  • xmenlongshot says:

    Agree with the comment that Le Manoir is ultra lux. Reid’s Palace and Cipriani also some of the best. The others a bit lower down the luxury rankings

  • Alex W says:

    Exciting, there are some great destinations on there!.

  • Roger says:


    Has anyone experienced IHG app running in background and draining phone battery.

    I had to uninstall IHG on my android due to this reason several times in last 2 weeks

  • Wally1976 says:

    Iguacu falls is probably my favourite place in the world – and I’ve travelled a fair bit – although I stayed in a £2.50 a night hostel (including breakfast!). A bit OT, sorry.

    • Sussex bantam says:

      Definitely agree – I loved Iguassu. Couldn’t afford a luxury hotel at the time though !


    Dear Rob,

    Most Belmond properties are extremely impressive.

    They own and run their properties – many of which are iconic and historic – and have deservedly built a reputation for extraordinary staff and service in the hotels is exceptional. Each hotel is run with respect to its unique cultural style and identity. Many of their properties are destination – attractions in their own right.

    Personally I would trade a stay in a suite at the Four Seasons Denver for any entry level room at the Splendido in Portofino.

    They are definitely not a joke.

    • Rob says:

      They really aren’t (in my view). Take a look at, say, Gallivanters Guide or the Flyertalk luxury hotels forum where discussion on Belmond is nil.

      The Chelsea hotel is next to my kids school and is unlikely to be anything special given the size.

      • Nigel says:

        Yes, “your industry” isn’t really luxury travel is it? The absence of chatter on Belmond on the points circuit is possibly due to the fact they don’t participate in points schemes.

        In terms of providing luxury accommodation, they are very much not a joke, and as others have noted, the equal of Four Seasons and Madarin.

        • Rob says:

          Neither the luxury hotels bit of Flyertalk or Gallivanters Guide have anything to do with points and both treat Belmond as second tier, as I do.

          In 15 years of reading Gallivanters Guide I cannot think of a single annual award they won, which would be nil out of about 200 over that period.

  • Wivus says:

    Bit bloody late. Going to Cape Town next week and, as I need a few last IHG points, have booked into the completely average Holiday Inn. They have nothing better within 200 miles. Believe me, I’ve checked.
    Can they do this tomorrow?

    • Gavin says:

      I’ve got fairly simple tastes for food, but had a brilliant time at Galbi on long street for korean BBQ style eating with kudu, zebra, ostrich etc. Washed down with Soju of course

    • Matt says:

      Good number of Marriotts though since they bought Protea. Bag your IHG points (maybe add a bonus package?) then jump ship?
      Marriott is running a 2-3k promo per stay, but the best is that all CPT Marriotts seem to be Cat1-5 so those free night vouchers would work on them, it’s hard to find a useful UK Marriott that isn’t above Cat5.

    • Simon Blackburn says:

      And afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson is a treat – not massively luxurious but all-you-can-eat and not at all stuffy. (Though my view may be influenced by the fact that when I went there was a big wedding on at the hotel and everyone just seemed to be in a really happy mood.)

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