France’s SNCF Group, owner of the iconic ‘Orient Express’ brand, has announced a deal with AccorHotels to develop Orient Express within the luxury hospitality sector globally.
As part of this partnership, which will combine the expertise and savoir-faire of the two groups, AccorHotels will be acquiring a 50 per cent stake in the share capital of Orient Express, until now fully-owned by SNCF.
AccorHotels intends to build on this partnership to strengthen its leadership in the luxury segment, by developing a new collection of prestigious hotels under the Orient Express banner. The company says this collection, which aims to be the very epitome of the art of travel, will offer a unique experience steeped in history that combines the luxury, exoticism and sophistication of East and West in iconic locations.
“We are delighted with this strategic partnership, which today cements the alliance of two major French players in the world of travel for a shared purpose, that of giving fresh impetus and international standing to an historic and world-renowned brand,” said AccorHotels Chairman and CEO, Sébastien Bazin.
“Thanks to this partnership, our customers will be able to enjoy a prestigious range of services and exceptional experiences based on a portfolio of luxury brands,” he said.
The deal between SNCF and AccorHotels was signed 134 years to the day after the first Orient Express trip between Paris and Constantinople on October 4, 1883.
“SNCF Group is proud to have contributed to the renaissance of this historic brand and we intend to continue our involvement and provide our expertise, acquired over the past 80 years in the field of rail engineering, to help develop this project,” said Mathias Vicherat, Deputy CEO in charge of the Corporate Project, Communication and Image, SNCF Group.
“Through our heritage policy, we will be actively involved in promoting this legendary train to the widest audience.
“The interest shown today by AccorHotels bears witness to the relevance of the project which has been supported since 2008 by our Chairman Guillaume Pepy,” he said.
The Orient Express brand is a timeless symbol of the art of luxury travel, steeped in culture, splendor and refinement. The legendary train, which for almost a century connected Europe’s greatest cities, from Paris to Istanbul, is imprinted in both History and imagination. Since 1977, SNCF Group has been actively involved in developing the brand’s prestigious image, notably through the restoration of vintage carriages dating from the 1920s (known as the Pullman-Orient-Express) and the organization of events (such as the exhibition “Once upon a time the Orient Express” at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in 2014).
In addition, the seven historic cars, symbols of French Art Deco, will remain the physical property of the state-owned rail group, and will be operated by Orient Express for private journeys and events. They will provide a new and exceptional setting for the organization of events, which may be held in collaboration with AccorHotels’ other businesses such as Potel & Chabot, Noctis and John Paul.
AccorHotels and SNCF Group are also together committed to preserving, promoting and sharing the heritage connected with the legendary train and its history through the Orient Express Endowment Fund, a public interest body whose aim is to encourage and support awareness-building initiatives to benefit a wide audience in the field of the arts and culture.
Guillaume de Saint Lager, Corporate Secretary, Orient Express said: “In its time, the Orient Express took the art of traveling to its peak. This ambitious project, which is unique, cannot come to fruition without the complementary skills of our two shareholders. We are proud and particularly look forward to being involved in writing this new chapter with such strong backing. Our ambition is to recreate this experience and make the Orient Express the gold standard in luxury travel and hospitality.”