AccorHotels will launch a new collection of luxury hotels under the Orient Express name. The move comes as the result of a deal between AccorHotels and the SNCF Group, owner of the “Orient Express” brand, through which AccorHotels will acquire a 50 percent stake in the share capital of Orient Express, until now fully owned by SNCF.
Luxury Travel Advisor spoke with Chris Cahill, CEO of Luxury Brands for AccorHotels in Paris yesterday, about the deal between the two French companies.
“We’ve got a partnership with SNCF, the railway company, to develop Orient Express hotels,” Cahill told us. “We think there's a nice space between Fairmont and Raffles that is going to be a great opportunity for us. We're formulating the brand strategy right now. There are a couple of different ways we can go, but already we've had a bunch of people call and say, ‘Wow, that's interesting. Can we talk?’”
Cahill added that AccorHotels will need a bit more time to determine how to move the new brand forward, but that “it’s going to be a great addition. I see it in a very different space,” he said, referring to AccorHotels’ portfolio of luxe brands, which includes Raffles, Fairmont and Sofitel. That portfolio was created in December 2015, when hotel giant AccorHotels, which already owned Sofitel, purchased FRHI, which owned the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissotel brands.
The seven historic Orient Express train cars remain the physical property of SNCF, the French, state-owned rail group, and will be operated by Orient Express for private journeys and events. A statement announcing the deal between AccorHotels and SNCF said the cars “will provide a new and exceptional setting for the organization of events, which may be held in collaboration with AccorHotels’ other businesses such as Potel & Chabot, Noctis and John Paul.” John Paul provides concierge services backed by a strong technology and CRM infrastructure.
The new Orient Express hotels brand is not to be confused with the company that was formerly called Orient-Express Hotels, which changed its name to Belmond in 2014 after it stopped licensing the Orient Express name from SNCF. Belmond has a number of iconic hotels in its portfolio, including Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Belmond Reid's Palace in Madeira, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, and the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro. It operates two river cruisers on the Irrawaddy River in Central Burma (Myanmar), and Belmond Afloat in France (five canal and river barges).