We were lucky enough to join Kate Thompson, the Area Brand and Marketing Director, Trains and Cruises of prestigious luxury travel company Belmond, for breakfast aboard the iconic Belmond British Pullman train to discuss their recent acquisition by LVMH, their marketing strategy, how to dress for the office, and her tips for where to dine in the Capital…

Shot aboard the Belmond British Pullman train
Photography by: FRANCESCO FORONI.

Belmond’s travel assets often feature in film and popular culture, maybe most famously Murder On The Orient Express. What effect does this have on Belmond as a business and how do you incorporate this into your communications strategy?

There has been a resurgence in interest in luxury train travel in the past few years and huge Hollywood films have played a part. Belmond British Pullman recently starred in Paddington 2 and we saw a huge amount of traffic and interest in the train from all ages. People are still searching ‘What is the train in Paddington 2?’ It really shows the power of PR and Marketing!

What are the challenges of being a leader in the luxury travel space?

At Belmond authenticity is key for us and delivering timeless, one-of-a-kind experiences that transform our guests, helps us stay ahead. For example, we recently revealed ‘The Wonder Collection’ in partnership with the London Philharmonic Orchestra – introducing audiences to the wonderful world of Belmond through exceptional music performed in exceptional locations. Only at Belmond can you experience a private performance by the LPO whilst on safari in Botswana or overlooking Iguassu Falls at Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas.

it has just been announced that Belmond will be acquired by luxury powerhouse LVMH – what does this mean for the company and how has this impacted your marketing strategy?

It’s hugely exciting. LVMH is the authority on luxury and have acquired the entirety of the Belmond brand which includes all hotels, trains and cruises. We are excited to see what the future brings.

How does luxury marketing strategy differ from marketing in other sectors?

Luxury marketing can be quite counterintuitive, which is fascinating. It’s not about “mass” anything. An old boss of mine used to say that if you need to drive sales and you’re considering lowering the price, don’t. Raise it. It’s about creating exclusivity, desire and experience. Brand and storytelling is key. We’re so lucky at Belmond that we have some of the world’s most iconic travel experiences and storytelling flows so naturally. For me it’s about making dreams come true – travelling on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is on many people’s bucket list and to be able to make that dream a reality for our guests is a rare privilege.

Shot aboard the Belmond British Pullman train
Photography by: FRANCESCO FORONI.

Favourite/most successful campaign?

In 2016 we transported a carriage from Belmond British Pullman to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and showcased it in the centre of the Great Pavilion. Over 25,000 visitors walked through the carriage that week together with a special visit from HM The Queen. So proud.

What is the hardest decision you have had to take in business?

Making personnel changes is always difficult, but if the situation is handled in the right way it will ultimately benefit both the individual and the business. I also find it very difficult to say no. The fear of missing out on an opportunity is excruciating!

Best working memory?

The first ever time I travelled on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express I was overcome with emotion – it was a real ‘pinch yourself’ moment.

How do you deal with stress in the workplace?

I do love to be organised and that helps to keep my stress levels down. I have a lot of affinity with the phrase “a tidy desk is a tidy mind”, but for me “a tidy inbox is a tidy mind” is much more relevant. I recently achieved ‘Inbox Zero’ (after reading a rather techy but inspiring article) and introduced a new way of triaging and organising my emails. It’s been a liberating experience! I also practice a lot of yoga in the evenings at home. The benefits of simply breathing and quietening the mind is more powerful than I’ll ever understand.

how does the culture at Belmond differ from other organisations?

The Belmond sense of community is so strong – we engage in hundreds of community projects across the world and we deeply care about the environments in which we operate. I’ve recently joined our mentoring programme, working with a local primary school to support reading activities with the children.

How would you define your style in 3 words?

Timeless, feminine…flattering!

What do you wear to work?

I seem to have an ever-expanding collection of navy dresses – usually paired with a long necklace and cute heels.

What is the dress code at Belmond HQ?

Business attire…with the ubiquitous dress-down Friday. Unless you’re a train steward and then you wear a very famous uniform!

Most treasured item in your wardrobe?

I can’t resist a lovely pair of boots – my Spanish Riding Boots (olive suede/tan leather combo) are a particular favourite. Gorgeous for town or country.

Tips for dressing for the office?

Professional at all times but don’t be afraid to be bold.

Where in London do you live, favourite thing about where you live?

Twickenham – the home of Rugby! I love the sense of community and we have a street party every year, just because.

Pub/restaurant recommendation?

The White Swan in Twickenham – a peaceful riverside location, perfect for a glass of rosé on a summer afternoon, while the children paddle in the water.

Where do you go/what do you do, to unwind?

I recently went on the most incredible ‘snowga’ retreat in the Swiss Alps with my inspirational friend Niki Perry Yoga. I didn’t check my emails for six days, which felt surprisingly liberating.

Favourite holiday memory?

Sailing in the Los Roques islands off the north coast of Venezuela – heaven is definitely a place on earth!

What is the one key thing life has taught you?

To embrace the curve balls. When one door closes, another one opens and it always works out for the best.

3 tips for being happy in life?

Be humble. Be kind. Be positive.

Shop Kate's look



You can find out more about Belmond here.