India a key market for us, says Andrea Filippi, ED- Worldwide sales, Belmond Group

Andrea, Executive Director – Worldwide sales, is bullish on the Indian luxury market in the months ahead. Aiming to double their representatives after this year’s successful road show, he believes that company’s new identity will strengthen its brand’s positioning.

An excerpt on the interview:

Q. What brings you to India? Despite your presence in several Asian countries, you have yet to step into India in the real sense? A marketing push at this time, when there is a certain sluggishness in world economy. Why now?
India is a very exciting destination for Belmond and one with huge potential as we see a very robust growth of outbound travel from India to our properties. To support our development of this important market, in October 2014 we started working with Heavens Portfolio on our sales and marketing activities to further raise awareness of Belmond across the Indian luxury travel trade. After the first 12 months of activities carried out by HP on our behalf, we felt this was the perfect timing to invest in a full roadshow.

Q. How was the response to the road show? Will it be an annual affair now?
Absolutely. Senior management of Belmond attended from a selection of our locations in Asia, Italy, Spain, Peru, and Russia. The inaugural Belmond Road Show in India lasted for a full week and was an overwhelming success. We will make this an annual appointment and we plan to double the number of our international representatives in attendance as of 2016.

Q. What sort of branding and market positioning are you looking at? What will be your USP to attract clientele?
Our collection is diverse spanning land, and water, adventure and relaxation. Belmond holds a unique position in the market as a travel company who can curate bespoke journeys by land, rail and river from its own portfolio – and our expert reservations team can partner these with flights to offer a ‘one-stop’ easy booking process. Whether travelling on an iconic train or moving between landmark hotels, Belmond brings together incredible locations and exceptional sights to offer some of the greatest journeys in the world.

Q. Belmond has an extensive portfolio. Can you tell us about your global outreach?
We have a unique and distinctive portfolio which embraces 46 hotel, rail and river cruise experiences in 23 countries – many of which are situated in iconic locations and are defining of their locality – Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio for example, or, with cultural provenance such as Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice.
Belmond has been pioneers of new destinations – leading the way for luxury travelers to explore new destinations. We were the first luxury river cruise operators to Myanmar when we launched Belmond Road to Mandalay 20 years ago – our two decades of experience making us leading experts to this destination. And in 1999, we were the first luxury hotel operator in Peru, where we now offer five hotels in iconic locations and the Belmond Hiram Bingham train that together provide a complete journey of exploration through this spiritual South American country.
Our employees are proud and passionate hosts in their environment, enabling guests to discover the destination in a very personal fashion and we offer a service that is genuine, understated, intuitive and tailored to our guest’s needs. But what really sets us apart from other travel companies is not just our unique and diverse global collection – it is our ability to create bespoke authentic, local experiences– our hotels, trains, cruises are the gateway through which our guests can immerse in local culture.

Q. What kind of market segmentation have you planned in the Indian market in the near future?
Whatever the occasion, Belmond ensures that it is marked in great style. From a lavish wedding to a multi-generational family holiday or the celebration of a milestone birthday, we have a team of experts on hand to help create special moments that will never be forgotten.
Given the geographic distribution of our portfolio of hotels, trains and river cruises, we mostly cater to sophisticated leisure travelers. The Belmond customers are seeking for in-depth immersion in the destinations they plan to visit and they look for a high level of service that is genuine, understated, intuitive and tailored to the specific needs of each individual guest.

Q. Could you give us some specifics?
The specific market segments that we anticipate will be most successful in the Indian market include honeymoons, adventure, cultural and discovery long-haul journeys. Then family holidays. For groups segments: leisure groups, destination weddings and birthday celebrations and corporate incentive trips

Q. What is your take on the hospitality industry in India? How do you view the possibilities ahead?
The luxury hospitality industry in India has some of the highest standards of service in the entire world, and many hotels that are internationally known as true “icons” in the global luxury hospitality. During our roadshow, we chose The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai and The Imperial in Delhi as the base for our delegation and the venues of choice for all our events and we were welcomed as royalties in both these jewels of the hospitality industry.
Belmond is always open to consider new management opportunities for unique, historic buildings that would fit with our overall development strategy. India is certainly a key market of interest to Belmond, but there are no active discussions for this market as we speak.

How different is the new brand from the old one? What has been the change from the past?
The migration to Belmond is intended to increase customer recognition in the marketplace, thereby attracting new guests and stimulating increased visits across the broad scope of the company’s unique collection of exceptional hotels and travel experiences from its existing customer base.
Strengthening our brand architecture will also make the company more attractive to property owners as we advance in our strategy of expanding into the management of third party assets that are complementary to our existing collection.

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