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Q&A JOHN SCOTT, President & CEO Belmond

The luxury travel world has been abuzz with the news that orient-Express has rebranded itself.  The new brand, Belmond is being much discussed. So what does the man at the head of it all have to say? John M. Scott, III has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of Orient-Express Hotels Ltd since November 2012.  Mr Scott has many years of experience in the luxury hotel business. Before he joined Orient-Express  (now Belmond) he served as the CEO and President at Rosewood Hotels and Resorts,  during his time there he doubled the number of hotels under management.

What inspired you to get into the hospitality business in the first place?
After graduating from Dartmouth College, I joined a hotel company in Asia and was part of the team that developed a graduate trainee scheme and I worked my way through different departments including front office and housekeeping, getting a great working knowledge of the industry.  This fuelled my interest in the business and so I eventually returned to the US to take a Master's Degree in Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

What does 'Belmond' say to your guests that 'Orient-Express' didn't?
We are extremely proud of the legacy we have created under the name Orient Express but the time is right for the Company to raise a greater awareness of the diverse range of travel experiences that we offer our guests. Derived from the Latin words for 'beautiful' and 'world', Belmond truly builds on our legacy and embraces all that is unique and exceptional about our diverse collection of hotels, river cruisers, trains and safaris.  The decision to move to the new name enables us to create greater awareness that we are a collection of unique travel experiences under a one brand identity. 

By creating this greater consumer awareness, we intend to attract new guests and increased visits across the collection. Many of our properties sit beside the globe's most celebrated sights: Machu Picchu, Table Mountain and Rio's Copacabana beach - we want to build a familiarity and comfort with our brand, regardless of location, so that the customer seeks Belmond out when they travel to new destinations.

What is the single most defining thing the new Belmond branding?
We own and operate a truly remarkable and unique collection of assets that are travel experiences, more than just hotels.  We are very excited about the fact we have created a brand that embraces all that we are, but still celebrates the individual icons within our collection.   The new brand marketing strategy allows us to retain the individual character of each property and increase consumer awareness that they are part of a wider collection. The enhanced branding of each property will see the name Belmond sitting alongside each property as a complementary extension of their own identity for example, Belmond El Encanto, Belmond Safaris, Belmond Hotel Cipriani and Belmond Royal Scotsman.  We will invest $5 million in launching Belmond in the first year and a further $10 million is expected to be invested over the next four - this will be a steady and strategic implementation and marketing campaign, including new website platforms, re-engineered customer relationship management, and our first ever large-scale print and media advertising campaign. 
Belmond CEO John Scott
The Royal Scotsman
Belmond CEO John Scott
Belmond El Encanto

What is the next big luxury travel trend?
We have seen a big upsurge in recent years in the celebrations market, as whatever the occasion, our guests like to mark it in great style.  This can be anything to an anniversary with extended family, a lavish wedding or simply seeking a discreet table for two. Our products lend themselves very well to creating special moments our guests will never forget, from a family reunion at a 15th century former monastery in Florence to a party like no other In Rio de Janeiro.

What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the 'luxury' tag?
For me, what defines a great luxury hotel is not the hardware, it's the software.  It's about the staff their ability to anticipate my needs and deliver unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that make my stay memorable.

Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
The Carlyle - because it is a quintessentially New York hotel experience with an exceptional sense of place.

We are very excited about the fact we have created a brand that embraces all that we are, but still celebrates the individual icons within our collection. 

What is the future for Belmond?
We are, of course, always  looking to grow our portfolio of experiences with destinations that appeal to our loyal luxury travellers. We anticipate that the almost immediate transformation of our existing portfolio to the Belmond brand and marketing strategy will be a very compelling opportunity to third party luxury hotel owners as not only will they be joining a stable of iconic properties, they will also benefit from the substantial investment we are making in the brand.

What is your favourite city to visit?
I grew up in San Francisco and always love to return there for its sheer beauty, the great restaurant scene and the accessibility the city has to great outdoor activities.

What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
I have just returned from Cape Town and thoroughly enjoyed the booming restaurant scene there, not only at our own Planet Restaurant at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, where we use incredible fresh produce exclusively grown for us on farms in the Cape, but I also particularly liked the tapas style menu at the Pot Luck Club, which enabled us to try lots of interesting and different dishes.

What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Since moving to London in November 2012 to be the CEO of Belmond, I have been a frequent flyer with British Airways.  They have good business class seats and the lounge at Heathrow terminal 5 is great for enabling you to get work done before you fly.

What three things do you never travel without?
I like to work out daily, so definitely my gym gear and trainers.  I would also never be without my Tumi backpack briefcase, which has definitely helped to improve my posture when constantly carrying laptops and overnight bags through airports, plus a Mophie battery case to extend the life of my phone.

Belmond CEO John Scott
Belmond Hotel Cipriani

What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
Again, for me it is about attentive and thoughtful service, rather than simple hardware.  On one visit to Belmond Charleston Place in South Carolina, I mentioned to a young concierge that I was looking forward to exploring Charleston on my daily run, but had forgotten my running shoes.  He called my secretary to find out which kind of shoes I usually used and my size, then went out that evening and got me a pair of my preferred Asics, so that I could run the following morning.

What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
As a travel consumer, I would always pay more for a unique and one-of-a-kind hotel that genuinely connected me with the destination than I would for a consistent, chain-like hotel experience.

What is the most important thing it can't?
Quality time at home with my wife and our three children.

Luxury Hotel Links: www.belmond.com
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