Chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin suggested that he was looking at a possible extension of the brand beyond hotels into adjacent ancillaries such as “furniture, silverware, luggage.”
“Orient Express is an extraordinary brand. Its DNA is elegant chic luxury, a mix between [the romance of] train travel and hospitality, and there is food experience as well, so within its existence and history, you have everything that matters in hospitality.
“The brand [Orient Express Hotels] was extremely well operated by [now Belmond]. So when the French railways [SNCF] inherited back the brand, I was extremely adamant to find a solution for Accor to bring back the brand to the hospitality sector. That’s why we built that partnership with the French railways,” Bazin said.
Orient Express Hotels was rebranded to Belmond in March 2014. According to a source, huge license fees to use the brand name was the key reason.
That Accor jumped in at the opportunity to buy was no surprise, considering it’s a French brand, and one with a past connection through its Pullman brand. Accor had bought a minority stake in the Pullman Company (which launched the first sleeper trains in the U.S.) in Europe, the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, which gave birth to Pullman Hotels.
Since 1997, SNCF has been involved in restoring vintage carriages dating from the 1920s known as the Pullman-Orient Express. Accor also hopes that these cars could be used as exceptional venues for special events, which may be held in collaboration with its other businesses such as Potel & Chabot, Noctis and John Paul.
Bazin was extremely protective of Orient Express. “Because that brand kept its purity, the one thing we have to do is to be very prudent and not go too far in brand positioning,” he said.
“Orient Express is linked to many countries – Paris, Istanbul, Vienna, Bucharest, Budapest and so on — but it does not belong to any place in the world,” Bazin continued. “So we’re going to start with (hotels) within the original Orient Express journey between western and central Europe. Only a few hotels deserve Orient Express as a brand, so we’ll be very selective. We have plenty of time.”
On brand extension, Bazin mused: “Orient Express has also something that is incredible that it can also be incorporated into furniture, silverware, luggage. There are tremendous things you can do but please, protect it.”