Rail Europe is on track with its second consecutive win in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Rail Vacation Provider and still another second consecutive Readers’ Choice Award for Travel Agent Support in the Rail Vacation category, with the latter being a particular delight for the company.
“First of all, it’s really an honor for Rail Europe to win two years in a row. To win two awards again this year was just fantastic and to win the Best Travel Agent Support is particularly important to us,” explains Samina Sabir, public relations manager for Rail Europe. “With the launch of our new agent Internet site we have really, really tried to provide online training through Webex training and a live chat program.”
And, she adds, “Because we went to such efforts to train the agents on our new site and to give them every kind of support possible as they were familiarizing themselves with how to navigate the new site, for us to win Travel Agent Support in that category is really an honor. We feel we’re hearing from the agents that maybe we’re doing this right—that we’re offering them the guidance, resources and training they’re looking for and that they require.”
Sabir says that as Rail Europe was developing the site, they invested months of research into finding out what the agents genuinely needed from the website and what they could do to help them maximize Rail Europe product sales through the site in the easiest and most efficient way.
“Then, once we had everything in line as to how the site should work best for the agent, it was up to us to really train them on how to make the most of the site,” Sabir points out. “The gist of it all is that we feel that this award has really kind of showed us that we’re moving in the right direction in terms of the agent community.”
Like pretty much everybody else in the industry, Sabir admits that 2009 was “…definitely a very challenging year and we expected it to be.” Still, when the airlines dropped prices on their transatlantic flights and hotel pricing in Europe dropped as well, Rail Europe noted that as consumer confidence increased a little bit, those people who started traveling again were looking for something that offered them the best value for their money and that they were a much more budget-minded traveler than in the past.
As a result, Sabir says, “We really positioned train travel as something that would suit people with these kinds of needs. Rail passes are pretty cost-efficient, they do allow for flexibility and we really tried to educate the consumer and the agent that rail passes include bonuses. A rail pass holder gets discounts to many tourist attractions throughout Europe—a Swiss Rail Pass holder, for example, gets free access into 400 museums in Europe. All these things—10 percent off here, 20 percent off there—they really can make a big difference to your overall budget. So that’s why we think we managed to do as well as we did in 2009—obviously we saw a decline in sales, but it wasn’t as sharp or as dramatic as it was with other partners. We actually did okay.” And they’re looking to continue that into 2010