LVMH announced Friday it was buying luxury hotel company Belmond for $2.6 billion. It was a surprising move that further entrenched the luxury conglomerate in the hotel space: LMVH also owns the Cheval Blanc maisons and their Italian luxury watches & jewelry brand Bulgari launched Bulgari Hotels & Resorts in 2001 in a joint venture with Marriott International.
Belmond bests Bulgari in digital competence, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury Hotels. Out of the 75 luxury and upper-upscale brands in the report, Belmond ranked 25th, joining the Average category, while Bulgari ranked near the bottom at #63 in the Challenged category. Both brands suffer from limited visibility on Google searches and invisibility on OTA and metasearch platforms.
Yet both brands find ways to rise above their sites’ middling performance. Belmond displays a beautiful autoplay video on its homepage, a site feature adopted by only 15% of brands in Gartner L2’s study. Bulgari’s What’s On blog features events related to art, haute cuisine, music, and wellness, all filtered by either “At the Hotel” or “In London” (specific to the property page).
On social media, both brands perform well above the average. While Bulgari excels on Instagram, Belmond finds success across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Belmond experienced the second-largest improvement in Instagram score year-over-year, after ramping up its content to two additional posts a week.
We’ve seen a trend of luxury brands getting into the hotel business over the years through various deals and partnerships. Luxury fashion brand Armani launched the Armani Hotels & Resorts in 2004 and the crystal glassware brand Baccarat lent its name to the Baccarat Hotels & Resorts in New York City with Starwood Capital Group in 2015. It will be interesting to see how luxury branded hotels succeed against the old guard, The Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, which consistently rank at the top when it comes to digital.