Charleston Place owner rebranding

  •    By Abigail Darlington
  • Posted: February 26, 2014
Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., part owner and manager of Charleston Place, is rebranding its worldwide fleet of upscale hotels and travel businesses. The company will begin marketing its properties under the name Belmond starting March 10.Orient-Express, based in Bermuda, owns 45 luxury tourism businesses across the globe and is named for its emphasis on tours by train.

The Belmond brand is intended to make the company’s collection of hotels, safaris and river cruises “easier to recognize,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.

It said the switch will involve a $15 million marketing campaign with new websites, social media efforts and its “first ever large-scale advertising campaign.”

“The change is an exciting one for us as it will create stronger brand awareness across the collection and give us new opportunities to promote Charleston and the hotel,” said Paul Stracey, managing director at Charleston Place.

Orient-Express operates six luxury railway services, including the famous London-to-Venice route aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a train owned by the French transportation firm SNCF. The Orient-Express trademark is licensed from SNCF. That agreement that will be terminated for all of the tourism company’s assets except for the Venice Simplon service.

“Migrating from a licensed brand to one which we fully own and control will, we believe, deliver an additional benefit to the company as it will enable us to invest with confidence in our brand,” said John M. Scott, president and CEO of Orient-Express Hotels.

The 440-room Charleston Place is the largest hotel in the Orient-Express stable. The company has been an investor in and operator of the downtown property since 1995. The luxury hotelier controls a 19.9 percent stake in the hotel and retail complex, where it’s investing $30 million under a three-year renovation plan.

Dean Andrews, now the owner of Zero George hotel on George and East Bay streets, was the director of operations in North America for Orient-Express from 2000 to 2008. He said the name change may signal a new strategy for the company.

“I was surprised to hear of their move, as the original strategy that was successful was to develop the collection of unique and one-off luxury properties that reflected their individual destinations,” Andrews said. “A single brand with resonance does have value, like Four Seasons or ‘W,’ …. That isn’t what Orient-Express was aspiring to be, so it will be interesting to see if their strategy pays off.”

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