Orient-Express, palaces … LVMH accelerates its development in advanced tourism

22.00 on 6 July 2022

Reims station is not used to such bustle: brass band, red carpets, butlers in clothing, a tower of Babel of passengers and about twenty midnight blue carriages built in the 1920s and 1930s, decorated with marquetry, Lalique glass, comfortable velvet. To celebrate its 250th anniversary, Veuve Clicquot has teamed up with her cousin Belmond (both are part of the LVMH galaxy) to organize an unparalleled trip: lunch in the chalk trenches of the house, a trip from Reims to Venice aboard it mythical Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express, then a night on the Cipriani. One hundred and twenty people paid between 7,000 and 50,000 euros for three days without time.

Six couples sat in the large suites: four Americans, a Canadian and a Spaniard living in Switzerland. Their room is equipped with a double bed, a sofa, an armchair, a mini dressing room, a small table and – the height of comfort in a train – a private shower and toilet. Meals (dinner, breakfast and then lunch) are prepared by chef Jean Imbert, also on the trip. Tuxedos and long dresses mandatory, magnum from La Grande Dame or the prestigious Cave Privée.

Venetian palace

“It is only in France that one can live such experiences, excited a young Lithuanian who came with her husband as soon as she heard about this journey like no other. An Englishman adds: “You know how to combine a site with history, tradition and intimate luxury, which is rare. » North Americans represent just over half of the customers. There are also Belgians, nationals of the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland or Germany. “Over the last two years, the luxury market has taken a spectacular step forward, confirms Jean-Marc Gallot, CEO of Veuve Clicquot, who imagined this dream weekend. Our customers want to live unique moments. One month after we opened for booking this trip, we were already fully booked. »

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Arriving early Monday afternoon at Venice station, the travelers were then taken by boat to Cipriani, the emblematic establishment of Belmond on the island of Giudecca. The only Venetian palace that has both a huge swimming pool, a large garden (3 hectares) and views of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, as well as a gourmet restaurant: l’Oro, directed by the young chef Riccardo Canella, the new star of Italian cuisine.

This pilgrimage to the world before, where the most legendary train – the Express de l’Orient, so named during its first voyage, was put on track for the first time on October 4, 1873 – is united with a famous palace and the best of gastronomy , which embodies exactly what the newest department of LVMH wants to be: Hospitality Excellence. The latter includes Belmond (50 properties, including 34 hotels in 24 countries and 7,000 employees), as well as the Cheval Blanc, the luxury hotel brand launched by the world’s leading luxury brand in 2006.

Belmond was bought for 2.8 billion euros by LVMH

Belmond was born from the dream of an American who is more British than Her Majesty’s subjects, James Sherwood, who became a multimillionaire in 1965, at the age of 36, thanks to an idea for a bright future: the rental of shipping containers. Obsessed with luxury hotels and passionate about trains, this Yale candidate bought Cipriani (1976) and two cars from Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express (1977) at auction. He then completed his portfolio by traveling the world to find the most beautiful family hotels with colonial charm and an uncertain future. James Sherwood’s intuition has proven to be correct: human-sized palaces, river cruises and historic carriages are more appealing than ever today, in line with the slow tourism trend.

“As of 2010, Belmond was coveted by the largest corporations in the sector, investment funds and some large private assets”, remembers a financial analyst. But it was the group created by Bernard Arnault that won in April 2019 for an amount of 2.8 billion euros, a year before James Sherwood’s death. At the head of the Hospitality Excellence division, the CEO of LVMH has just appointed Stéphane Rinderknech, 48, to “hunt” at L’Oréal, where this head of the cosmetics master’s North American subsidiary spent eighteen years, between South Korea, Japan, and China.

Some come back from generation to generation, which is exactly what we want to be: the most beautiful brand in luxury travel.

“Experiential” luxury is the emotions that are felt during the journey, those that are remembered long after returning home, assesses the manager who arrived on June 6 at LVMH. Belmond was a pioneer in the travel legend. Nostalgia and joy of life. » A main asset, according to the one who begins to discover every flagship in the division: “The travel world is rebuilding itself after two years of border closures and incarcerations. It is up to us to meet these new expectations. »

At the helm of Belmond, Dutchman Roeland Vos has been observing the realization of a season since the beginning of the year “magnificent”: “The level of reservations is excellent. Our hotels are full. And many customers extend their stay. Some come back from generation to generation, which is exactly what we want to be: the most beautiful brand in luxury travel.”

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