Belmond adjusts to meet the 'temporary abnormal'

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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

When it comes to changing travel in the age of Covid-19, much talk has centered on the "new normal."

Roeland Vos, CEO of luxury hospitality company Belmond, however, says he prefers to think of it as the "temporary abnormal."

And while he concedes that with the pandemic still raging, "now is not a time for blind optimism," he told travel advisors in a virtual roadshow the company put on this week that he is confident luxury travel will rebound.

"After this year,  I think that there will be a deeper appreciation for luxury and the value of travel than ever before," he said.

He cited a study from Boston Consulting that 60% of luxury customers can't wait to travel again.

"That for us has been very welcome," he said.

And it is a trend Belmond has seen since its properties began opening in June, Vos said.

• Related: Belmond reopening its resorts in Anguilla and St. Martin

At the end of September, 25 of the company's 46 hotels were open and two of its luxury trains were running, he reported.

And while many borders remain closed, Vos said Belmond has seen greater than expected demand at its hotels by local customers, without having to compromise on room rates.

In particular, he said, they have seen strong local demand at the Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara, Calif.; their two hotels in Brazil, the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro and Belmond Hotel das Cataratas in Iguassu Falls; and the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo on the Italian island of Sicily.

To help tap demand for more local and regional customers, Vos said the company has developed more private and outside experiences around the hotel pools and gardens as well as "tailored excursions helping local customers rediscover hidden gems just beyond their own backyards."

"Until a better normal begins, [it is] crucial to enhance and adapt to what our guests are looking for," he said.

Andrea Filippi, vice president of global sales, said the company will continue focusing on curating and delivering "really exceptional experiences" as they expect travelers to stay closer to home and take fewer but longer trips for the next year or two.

In their separate virtual sessions, Filippi and Vos both teased about an exciting announcement they said Belmond is planning in coming weeks.

"I think it is something you will say, 'Wow, I did not expect this,'" Filippi said.

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