Mind Your Business: Arnaud Champenois of Belmond on the art of slow travel

By Haziq Yusof 9 July, 2024

In Mind Your Business, we speak with business leaders and thinkers who inspire their respective companies and industries. Here, we feature Arnaud Champenois, senior vice president of global brand, marketing, and communications of Belmond

The next time you’re frantically rushing from one place to the next while on vacation, desperately trying to tick everything off your checklist, remember: there’s an entirely different way to travel. Instead of jumping from one landmark to the next, why not take the time to savour every moment, every sight, and every flavour instead?

This is the essence of “slow travel,” a concept that transforms brief, activity-laden vacations into rich, immersive experiences. Whether it’s enjoying a leisurely train ride on Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express (reopened earlier this year), or indulging in a long, delicious lunch with friends overlooking the ocean, slow travel is all about making memories that last.

In his capacity as the senior vice president of global brand, marketing, and communications of Belmond, Arnaud Champenois is a staunch advocate for the art of slowing down and living in the moment.

headshot of Arnaud Champenois of Belmond
Arnaud Champenois believes in the art of slow travel. Photo by Belmond

With over two decades of experience in the luxury sector, having previously held significant roles at prestigious brands like Starwood Hotels & Resorts, L’Oréal, and Cartier, Champenois is keen to explore the idea of slow travel further, emphasising the moments when the journey itself becomes an unforgettable part of the vacation.

Tell us about Belmond’s ‘Art of Travel’.

At Belmond, We have a beautiful heritage portfolio with many, many properties that’s rooted in history. But we are a travel brand—not a hotel brand. So, what we want to do is to contemporise the golden age of travel and bring back the time when the journey itself was the holiday.

How does Belmond curate the list of experiences it offers?

We try to make the experiences immersive, and to really get into the destination. So in the case of the Eastern & Oriental Express, we decided to focus on just the one country, Malaysia. We then explore the country deeply, offering two routes: the first being a cultural route that goes into the Unesco heritage city of Penang, and the other goes to the more adventurous and jungle-filled Langkawi. So the idea is to always take a destination and make it more contemporary—an idea I call ‘contemporary nostalgia’.

exterior of the Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express
Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express was reintroduced early this year. Photo by Belmond

Speaking of the Eastern & Oriental Express, how do you think the recently reintroduced experience will resonate with consumers after a four-year hiatus?

Train travel is time travel. When you get on one of our trains, it’s a game-changing experience because you rediscover the notion of time. It’s almost like you are in a time capsule. And different countries provide different experiences on board. From the party atmosphere of our Venice-Simplon-Orient Express, to the 4000-metre high rails in Peru, you’ll have a different adventure depending on the country you’re in.

a woman peering over the guardrails on the Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express
Train travel is about rediscovering the notion of time. Photo by Belmond

We’re struck by the idea you mentioned—about ‘rediscovering the notion of time’. Could you elaborate on it?

It’s a big trend. I think it’s really something people want to reconnect with. Because suddenly you’re going to read a book again, and actually take in the passing landscapes. For us, it’s really about two things; rediscovering the notion of time and making nostalgia contemporary so that our guests can take the time to be present and fully immerse in the destination.