Rail Europe and partners roll into Toronto for agent updates


Rail Europe and partners roll into Toronto for agent updates
Pictured, L-R: Sylvette Natiez, director – international distribution, SNCF; Rares Dumitru, regional sales director – Canada, Rail Europe; Cécile Morel, France and overseas sales manager, TGV Lyria; Thisal Dewundara, international product marketing manager, SNCF; Tuesday-Ann Castle, national account manager, Eurostar; Lina Wang, overseas sales manager, Thalys.

Rail Europe and partners hosted travel agents at the Marché restaurant in downtown Toronto yesterday (Feb. 12) for an event that shared product updates for 2018 and also saw the launch of the company’s new agent-focused website.

Rares Dumitru, regional sales director – Canada for Rail Europe, was joined by representatives from Eurostar, Thalys, TGV Lyria and Eurail at the event, with each agents getting a closer look into the burgeoning appeal of European rail travel for North American customers.

Dumitru said that the new website, agent.raileurope.ca, was designed specifically with agents in mind. “It’s very user-friendly,” he told PAX.

“It’s [about] increased functionality; it’s things like being able to choose the seat for your clients; it’s just a lot of information about all of the train companies that we work with. It is very 21st century, and again it’s an agent website that’s been designed for the agents.”

Those who had registered a username and password on the old website, Dumitru added, would be able to use both on the new site, with no requirement to create new login details.

The event illustrated the centrality of travel agents to Rail Europe and its partners, with Dumitru describing them as ‘our bread and butter.’ “My focus is 100 per cent on the travel agent community in Canada – we would never do anything without our travel agents,” he said.

“It’s important for us to understand that travel agents are really the experts at what they do, and we have to support them in any way we can; at the end of the day, they are the ones who are presenting our product to their clients, and they are the ones who are pushing our products.”

Photo credit: Dominik Baur

A strong 2017

Dumitru said that 2017 had been a prosperous year for Rail Europe, with the company’s performance bolstered by the expanding popularity of a variety of European destinations among North American travellers. “I think that we saw some emerging destinations – possibly destinations that people wouldn’t necessarily think about, travelling by train,” he said.

“We still have all of the regular big ones – France, Italy, Switzerland, and the U.K. was very popular last year. And then you see people travelling into Central and Eastern Europe; Prague-Vienna-Budapest is a classic itinerary, done by everybody. A lot of people want to do that by train as well, because it’s just so easy to do.”

News from the partners

Eurostar has announced in recent days that it will launch a new direct service between London and Amsterdam, scheduled to commence on April 4, 2018 with tickets going on sale next week (Feb. 20).

The service will operate directly from London to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with the return journey connecting through Brussels while the U.K. and Netherlands governments complete an agreement enabling passport checks to be conducted on departure.

Photo credit: ©Alex Profit/SNCF

TGV Lyria, which operates service between France and Switzerland, offers the opportunity to ‘get a breath of fresh air in Switzerland in only three hours.’ In addition to multilingual staff and up to 20 return trips per day, the company is introducing three new travel classes – Standard, Standard 1ere and Business 1ere – to offer travellers greater flexibility and value.

Thalys features destinations between Paris, Brussels and the Netherlands, with its Spring OS Offer, running until Feb. 22, 2018, offering savings on travel between March 31 and May 31, 2018. Among its offerings include free international newspapers in its Premium category, onboard Wi-Fi on all carriages, and a loyalty program for frequent travellers.

Eurail’s France pass, meanwhile, allows European travellers to experience an array of French cities, with unlimited trains in France available up to eight days per month. Travel on the Eurostar line between Paris and London, meanwhile, is also possible with the pass.

Wide appeal for Canadian clients

Dumitru told PAX that travelling with Rail Europe and its partners presented Canadians with a novel way to experience the continent. “I think that the Canadian client is an experienced client,” he said. “They are looking for unique experiences; trains are a perfect means of bringing those experiences to them.

“The European train system is something that’s unique; I think people look at travelling by train as not necessarily a mode of transportation in Europe, but as an experience in itself.”

Rail Europe's new website can be viewed at www.agent.raileurope.ca.

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