AccorHotels is acquiring a 50% stake in the Orient Express brand from SNCF French railways for an undisclosed sum.
The French hospitality giant plans to strengthen its leadership in the luxury segment by developing a new collection of prestigious hotels under the Orient Express banner.
The collection aims to be “the very epitome of the art of travel”, offering “a unique experience steeped in history that combines the luxury, exoticism and sophistication of East and West in iconic locations”.
Yesterday’s deal came 134 years to the day after the first Orient Express trip between Paris and Constantinople on October 4, 1883.
SNCF Group has been involved in developing the brand’s image sinew 1977, notably through the restoration of vintage carriages dating from the 1920s – known as the Pullman-Orient-Express – and the organisation of Orient Express events.
The seven historic carriages, which have connected Paris and Istanbul for almost a century, will remain the
property of the state-owned rail group, and will be operated by Orient Express for private journeys and events.
They will provide a new setting for the organisation of events, which may be held in collaboration with AccorHotels’ other businesses such as Potel & Chabot, Noctis and John Paul.
AccorHotels and SNCF Group say the are 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.
The hotel group’s chairman and chief executive Sébastien Bazin said: “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.
“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.”
SNCF deputy chief executive Mathias Vicherat added: “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.
“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.”
Orient Express corporate secretary Guillaume de Saint Lager 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.”
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