Roeland Vos, President CEO of Belmond in an exclusive interview with CPP-LUXURY.COM
CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Roeland Vos, President and CEO of Belmond Ltd.
How has your company performed in 2016? And what are your expectations for the rest of the year? – in general terms, not specific financials
Belmond has had a solid year and we have high expectations for a strong third quarter, which is generally our most profitable quarter. The Olympics in Brazil have given us a good uplift and we also have had a good summer across our resort hotels, particularly in Europe. We have also recently made a number of investments in our properties that start showing strong benefits.
Which are your key international markets as consumer base?
Our top performing markets in terms of visitors are the US and UK, followed by the rest of Europe and South America.
Do you see particular growth opportunities from certain markets?
Yes, we do see strong growth opportunities for the German speaking market as well as China and India where we are just starting to make inroads. For Germany, for instance we have recently introduced a full German-language site that already is generating business.
Two years after the re-branding, how would you evaluate the results?
The purpose of the rebranding in 2014 was to create an umbrella for our very diverse portfolio of hotels, trains and cruises while embracing each hotel, cruise, train and safari’s individuality and authenticity. The common thread that ties all our experiences together is the ‘authentic escape’ that allows our guests to slow down from their hectic day-to-day lives and to reconnect with what is most important to them. While it does take time to adapt to change we are encouraged by the responsiveness and feedback from our guests to the change.
Which are the best performing units in your business?
All our properties are unique in their own right which makes it difficult to compare their performance. For instance, Belmond Copacabana Palace is having a fantastic year with the Olympic Games that just recently concluded in Rio and also our Italian and Southern European resorts have had a great season.
What are your future development plans for your hotel business? Do you consider selling any of your properties?
In June we introduced our Strategic Plan for the next five years to the Investor community. The plan calls for doubling the size of the company in both the number of properties in operation as well as EBIDTA. While this may sound ambitious I am confident that this kind of success is possible.
We have identified a list of potential properties that would fit the Belmond brand and we are open to different types of deals from management contracts to potential acquisitions to joint ventures or franchises.
In order to fund some of the acquisitions we might look at selling select assets in future but before considering this we would attempt to maximize our organic growth in our portfolio to provide the needed cash. If we were to sell an asset, the goal would always be to sell encumbered with a long-term management agreement.
Cadogan Hotel in London marks your debut as a third party hotel operator. Do you plan to expand through management?
Yes, a big part of our Strategic Plan includes future management agreements in combination with other options such as acquisitions, whether single properties or a small portfolio, management contracts, limited franchises, but also potential further joint ventures or mergers.
How has the internet and social media changed, if in any way, your marketing and sales strategies?
Social media and the internet are the way the world communicates today. It opens huge opportunities to interact with your guests prior to, during and post visit and if done well, it does create loyalty and personal recognition. For instance, we are in the process of rebuilding our entire website which could be considered the gateway to the digital universe.
Your company has built a reputation of providing the utmost in service standards. How do you maintain such high standards of service?
Modern luxury travelers are looking for a sense of surprise and the opportunity to create very special memories that they can share; they see true luxury experiences as more than just polish and opulence; they see luxury experiences as highly individual, meaningful, exclusive and authentic – and all delivered with understated and un-intrusive service. The biggest challenge is to deliver authentic and genuine experiences in a unique Belmond way that cannot be replicated by our competitors.
Besides maintaining a high standard of service, luxury hospitality is also about maintaining the same standards for your product. What is your approach to renovations / refurbishments?
Increasing the performance from our existing operations is certainly part of our Strategic Plan and continues to includes investments into our current hotels, trains and cruises, i.e. renovations, upgrades and the likes.
We have recently re-introduced Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, one of our three safari lodges in Botswana after a top to bottom rebuild. The Lodge has already garnered numerous awards and is returning a solid ROI. Or, another example is Belmond Residence D’Angkor which will open in November after a complete refurbishment.