The Adrian Loveridge Column – Attracting Top Class Hotel Brands Without Concessions
Even for those who have spent years in the tourism industry, the name Belmond, may not at first, mean anything at all. In July 2014 their name was changed from Orient Express Hotels Ltd, which was originally founded in 1976 after buying the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, to Belmond Ltd which now has its headquarters in London and is a publicly listed company.
Navigating to their website, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the site itself- all aspects of the presentation that goes with it. In their own words ‘The ultimate travel curator and connoisseur, Belmond creates exceptional experiences worldwide, a global collection of 46 iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 22 countries brings together some of the world’s most thrilling journeys and destinations’.
Included in this truly luxurious property portfolio are two current hotels within the Caribbean, namely La Samanna on nearby St. Martin (FWI) and Belmond Maroma Resort and Spa located at the Riviera Maya in Mexico, plus their latest acquisition on Anguilla, Cap Juluca.
According to various news sources the current 96 rooms will be increased by the addition of 25 beachfront villas or suites over the next two years. Estimated cost of the Cap Juluca purchase, planned renovations and expansion will cost US$121 million or almost exactly averaging US$1 million per room, suite or villa. Cap Juluca was beautifully designed by renown Los Angeles based architect, H.G. Oscar Falmer with its Greek Moorish white washed villas, set among courtyards, turrets and arches spread across 179 acres of beachfront land.
Among its media information the company ‘is committed to doubling the size of its portfolio by 2020’, which in any terms, can only be described as a massive and undoubtedly ambitious undertaking, with already such a list of illustrious hotels that Belmont either own or manage.
And unless I have missed it somewhere, this huge investment into a tiny island in the Caribbean has been done without any significant Government hand-outs, tax avoidance and other huge extraordinary concessions that have been granted to albeit a tiny select few elsewhere.
So what is Belmond’s secret or magical formula?
Clearly, they have positioned their offerings at the very top of the market, while at the same time appealing to just about every age group with experiences that many aspire to and which I seriously doubt, would disappoint many. Is there some way that Barbados can attract this kind of investment to enhance our current luxury options like Sandy Lane?
I obviously know about the proposed Hyatt and Westin but Belmond is clearly on an elevated level and I suspect many of their clients would not trade down to a lower type of accommodation and experience offering. Despite its tiny size of just 35 square miles, Anguilla can not only boast a Belmond, but a Four Seasons and the Reef at CuisinArt, despite only having very limited airlift and restricted runway length, prohibiting larger jets to land there.