Road & Rail

Why rail is the ‘new’ cruise

Hannah Edensor

A fun-filled Rail Plus expo is taking Australia and NZ by storm right now, and last night landed in Sydney to keep agents on top of all the latest rail news.

Speaking to media, Rail Plus Commercial Director Ingrid Kocijan said the growth across the range of products is showing that travellers are really getting on board with rail travel (get it, on board?)

giphy (11)

But despite the upward swing in bookings, some people still get hesitant at the word ‘train’, thinking more CityRail than luxury adventure.

So Kocijan had the perfect angle to approach it from.

“For us, we see a real opportunity here to jump on board what we see as a “cruising train”,” she said, suggesting train travel is basically just “cruising on rails”.

“It’s perfect for people who love to cruise; you unpack once, you get full itineraries and different excursions.

“There’s a familiarity in rail travel for cruising clients,” Kocijan added.

“People want something different, and today, an agent’s biggest asset is having a market to sell to, and in rail journeys, there’s a big market.

Kocijan also emphasised that Rail Plus wants to “position itself as experts in the field”.

She said not only do they have a dedicated team to help their travel partners, but they have higher commissions than other rail products.

“We’ve got higher value and higher commissions for agents,” Kocijan explained.

Adventure is on the rise too, with Kocijan sharing that travellers are looking at new routes in Alaska, Russia, and other destinations like Central Asia and the Silk Road.

There’s also been strong enquiries into Indian products, she added, while luxury train travel in Spain has seen some of the biggest growth across the board, up 50 per cent in the past year.

In terms of what Rail Plus is doing for agents, Kocijan said it all comes down to education.

“We believe knowledge is power, so we’re trying to get as many of our staff out there as possible, trying our products on the Great Train Journeys range.”

And that’s where the travel industry’s first ever online training program dedicated to Great Train Journeys (GTJ) comes into the picture.

Open to all qualified Australian travel agents, the GTJ Rail Expert program will take agents’ knowledge of key regions, networks and train lines to an new level, with eight themed-modules covering:

  • Rocky Mountaineer
  • VIA Rail
  • Grand Train Tour of Switzerland
  • Great Southern Rail
  • The Great Journeys of New Zealand
  • Belmond & India
  • The Americas
  • The rest of the world.

At the end of each module, agents will be presented with 10 randomly selected questions, which must be answered – along with a simple creative query – before midday on 6 October 2017.

Every agent who achieves a 60 per cent pass rate will graduate as a ‘GTJ Rail Expert’, and receive an e-certificate.

The top graduate from the inaugural program will receive a $500 VISA Gift card, with prizes also allocated for second- ($250 VISA Gift card) and third-placed ($150 VISA Gift card) finishers. In addition, the top achiever for each modules will win a Kobo e-reader.

“Agents are crying out to learn more about the world’s great train journeys because they recognise the important commercial opportunity these products present,” says Kocijan.

“At the same time, they appreciate that the rail sector is evolving rapidly, and, as in the cruise sector, there is now a broad range of rail products, which they need to understand in order to find the right solution for each customer. The GTJ Rail Expert program will ensure they have ability to do just that.”

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