Railbookers’ managing director Peter Traynor talks to Charlotte Flach about how the company takes the complexity out of the booking process for agents and offers his top selling tips
With multiple train services and operators across the world, coordinating various train routes for clients can be a headache for agents trying to book a seamless, multi-centre rail trip for their clients. Railbookers can simplify the process for agents according to Peter Traynor, managing director of the rail holidays specialist.
“We take the complexity out of booking rail travel for agents who might shy away from rail because it is a complicated product,” he explains.
He describes Railbookers’ employees as an “information source”, with hundreds of itinerary options to suggest. “Our call centres understand the train timetables and can suggest the best way of doing a journey. All bookings are taken on the phone and are flexible and can be tailored. If a train runs those days, we can book it, with the whole package including flights.”
According to Traynor, the more complicated the product, the better it sells. “Anyone can offer a Paris city break. Where we come in is where there are multiple trains or train systems,” he explains.
This demand for complex journeys is reflected in the operator’s new itineraries. In addition to its core products in Europe and North American, it has released a Via Rail Vacations by Railbookers brochure for the first time this year, featuring holidays across the whole Canadian Via rail system. Itineraries in Japan, China, Australia, India and South Africa have also been added.
In June, Railbookers also launched an Around the World by Rail bucket-list style trip, visiting 20 cities in four continents across 56 days.
“Since the launch [of this trip] we have seen a significant increase in bookings for longer-haul holidays beyond our traditional core destinations,” says Traynor.
Although January and February this year saw a brief suppression in demand due to Brexit, the last three months have seen sales on the up again.
Top-selling itineraries for the operator include the Italian Alps, and a trip to Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, which takes clients straight into the centre of each city.
Traynor advises agents to look out for customers who enjoy river cruising and city breaks and who want to combine the two into a potential rail trip.
It is also a suitable alternative for those that won’t fly he adds, with this applying to about 25% of Railbookers’ customer base.
“High-speed rail has a twentieth of the carbon impact of flying so people who want to minimise their footprint are choosing us. If you have to fly to a destination, you can use rail between different cities.”
The celebrity element is also a great selling point, with a number of high-profile faces appearing in TV programmes showcasing rail travel.
“Michael Portillo started this trend, and we have seen the continuation of this with programmes such as Trevor McDonald’s Indian Train Adventure and Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure.”
And he believes any rail cynics should not dwell on their UK commutes.
“Generally in Europe and North America train travel is such a pleasant, clean experience with trains running on time. It's a far nicer way of exploring a country, and travelling with locals really adds something to a holiday.”