what’s hot for travel agents
Karen Wiseman, director of sales for Rocky Mountaineer, sees the new Coastal Passage program as “an excellent way to market an additional trip to a client who might typically elect for an Alaskan cruise out of Seattle. Nearly 50 percent of our first-class GoldLeaf clients travel with us in combination with an Alaska cruise. Rocky Mountaineer trips are customizable, so they can be targeted at a number of different types of high-end travelers—romantic Rockies for couples, incredible culinary experiences on board and off for foodies, SilverLeaf for those looking for luxury value, and soft adventure for families and/or multi-generational groups.”
SilverLeaf Service is being expanded for 2013, Wiseman notes. “We launched SilverLeaf on our signature First Passage to the West route between Vancouver and Banff/Calgary, and it was enormously successful for us. It is something of a ‘business class’ and perfect for clients looking for a superlative trip at an affordable luxury price tag. It combines some of the GoldLeaf amenities like hot meals and spacious seating with domed views, but is a single-level coach. In addition to availability on the First Passage to the West route, we’ll now have SilverLeaf Service on our Journey Through the Clouds route through Vancouver, Kamloops and Jasper.
Wiseman urges agents to take a look at the company’s revamped booking website. “It has a ‘Cruise Match’ feature that allows agents to match a Rocky Mountaineer vacation package with any cruise serving Seattle or Vancouver. All you have to do is enter the date of the ship’s departure or arrival, and our website finds the appropriate train departures and provides the number of days in between. It helps agents to make highly individualized sales.”
Wiseman cites a number of key aids on tap in the recent makeover of the booking website: updated sales tools to help agents understand different Rocky Mountaineer itineraries; info on self-serve itineraries for customized bookings; videos to bring service, scenery and onboard experiences to life; online booking applications; on-demand sales training sessions; special limited-time offers and collateral sales tools.
“Right now, we are developing an agent incentive for 2013. The grand prize will be an all-expense-paid trip for two in GoldLeaf on the Coastal Passage itinerary. We’re excited for our partners to get the chance to experience our newest route.”
canada with VIA rail
According to Ryan Robutka, senior manager of sales and marketing for VIA Rail, the operator’s flagship route on The Canadian is a popular journey connecting Toronto and Vancouver.
“A passenger will be able to view Canada’s varied geography on The Canadian, from the prairies to the Rockies. However, we do find that our off-the-beaten-path routes, including Churchill and Nova Scotia to be incredibly popular. Our route from Montreal to Halifax is breathtaking in the fall. For those seeking the very best of Canada’s wilderness experiences, a trip to Churchill to see polar bears and beluga whales or to Prince Rupert to see grizzly bears is a must.”
He adds that VIA Rail continually works with destination partners in Canada “to create exciting, new itineraries that feature our trains and various regions of the country. Combining The Canadian between Vancouver and Edmonton with a flight to the northern territory of Yukon to allow people to take in the Aurora Borealis in the winter months is a partnership we’re working on with Air North. Also, the Jasper to Prince Rupert trip can be combined with an Inside Passage cruise with
BC Ferries between Prince Rupert and Vancouver Island.”
VIA strives to continuously offer a premium product for its guests. On select routes it offers a Sleeper Plus class for passengers to choose between a variety of accommodations such as a cabin for up to four people or a suite. “Passengers can find their cabin or suite in our Sleeper Cars, which are equipped with private restrooms. During the journey, passengers can move around the cars and take advantage of the Skyline Dome Car and Park Car.
“It is no surprise that most of them spend their time in the dining car. In fact, we have just recently launched a new menu on board The Canadian. All of our meals are made to order and also reflect the region in which the train is passing through. On board the Jasper to Prince Rupert train, during the peak period between early-June to the end of September, Touring class passengers have access to the domed Park Car. Here they can take in 360-degree views of wilderness, lakes and rivers on the upper observation deck.”
(888) VIA-RAIL; viarail.ca
Riding North America’s Rails
tour operator intel
Various rail tour operators were asked their impressions about trends and upcoming itineraries in rail travel, and what makes their product unique in the marketplace.
“Rail travel is trendy and fast and there is something fun and vibrant about boarding a train in the heart of one city and pulling up a few hours later into the bustling heart of another. Trains don’t require travelers to check in hours before departure time. In fact, most trains request that you only be at the platform about 15 to 20 minutes before the train departs. Travelers value their time and if they opt for the train, they can spend the last few hours in a city taking in the sites instead of checking in many hours beforehand.
“In late spring of 2012, a new private Italian railroad launched a new service of high-speed trains called Italo. This is the first private railroad to open in Italy and it competes directly with the state-owned Trenitalia on the most popular routes in Italy. Italo trains connect the cities
of Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Salerno. Both Italo and Trenitalia trains are available through Rail Europe.”
—Frederic Langlois, president and CEO
Great Southern Rail
“Popular destinations for those traveling on The Ghan include Alice Springs and Darwin, where guests experience the wonders, delights and amazing contrasts of Australia’s Top End from the dry Red Centre to the Tropical North of Darwin. The Ghan is a great way to see why the Australian landscape is one of the most stunning in the world.
“On the Indian Pacific, popular destinations include Adelaide and Perth, where guests can experience why good food and wine has put these two cities on the world map. From the calm and beauty of Colonel Light’s city of Adelaide to the bustling growth and fresh sea air of Perth, guests will travel through and see, taste, touch and smell some of the world’s most famous food and wine regions.
“While no new itineraries are currently being developed, Great Southern Rail is currently working to heighten the onboard experience for our guests by adding some exciting service enhancements. We have listened to feedback from our guests and will be implementing these changes in the coming months. These service enhancements include changes to the onboard dining experience and a various range of inclusions for our Gold and Platinum Service guests.”
—Antoneth Spaziani, sales assistant business development
Greaves Tours, LLC
“With regard to luxury train travel in India, an agent should be aware that Indian luxury trains have made their mark in the global hemisphere with their unparalleled opulence and refined luxury. These trains are the mirror of a bygone era of splendor and royalty in India. While these trains are of the upmost luxury, they do have some limitations. Train travel in India has fixed itineraries and has to be booked in their entirety.
“Most agents do not realize that for the majority of the time, the train does not travel during the day, only at night, so they must advise their clients that the train moves while they sleep. Some clients expect to be seeing scenery during the day, which is not the case, and they should also be prepared to sleep while the train is moving. Additionally, during the day, the train company organizes the sightseeing [tours], and travelers visit the locations in a group,
via a coach, not a private car as with Greaves Tours. There are currently six luxury trains
available for travel in India that cover various famous destinations within the country. They include Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, Golden Chariot, Indian Maharaja and Maharajas’ Express.”
—Ian S. Cambata, director
(224) 765-4545; greavesindia.com