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Amtrak Seeks New Agents

February 15, 2010 By: George Dooley Travel Agent


Amtrak has diverse tour options and serves over 40 destinations in the U.S. and Canada


What comes to mind when you think of Amtrak Vacations? Glacier National Park, the Rockies, the Grand Canyon, New England foliage, a Broadway show or a tour of Washington, D.C.’s historical sites are just a few of the possibilities with this fully commissionable vacation alternative that is gaining popularity with a rising number of agents and travelers.

This was underscored by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address that the federal government is serious about realizing Amtrak’s full potential, including recommendations for an $8 billion investment in high-speed rail links in the U.S.

It was also a reminder of Amtrak and Amtrak Vacations’ potential as a source of leisure and business travel options that have broad appeal to travelers looking to try something new. Last fiscal year, Amtrak carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company’s history.

On the growing leisure travel side, Amtrak Vacations, the company’s vacation planning service, expects to benefit from consumers’ U.S. “close to home” travel trends, involving families and small groups. Current surveys also suggest strong interest in national park visits that Amtrak Vacations serves among its 500 destinations.

Paul O’Meara, vice president, sales and marketing for Yankee Holidays and Amtrak Vacations, told Travel Agent that 2010 has started with exceptionally strong interest in rail vacations and that Amtrak Vacations is eager to work with agents, including home-based independents. Travel agents account for roughly 50 percent of sales, says O’Meara.

Commissions are a basic 10 percent plus incentives for productive agents and group sales. Amtrak Vacations works closely with major agency groups, including, American Express, Virtuoso and WESTA. It also routinely customizes programs in collaboration with agents and their clients.

Serving over 40 destinations in the U.S. and Canada, Amtrak Vacations details new sales support for agents in its 44-page 2010 Rail Travel brochure that is available online and in print. The e-brochure has web links to all featured destinations as well as the Amtrak System Map. It also has data on discounts available on rail fares, onboard accommodations and dining options. Other features include train and destination images, videos of the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park as well as a 3D tour of Amtrak’s Superliner and Viewliner sleeping cars. The e-brochure gives users the option to link, e-mail or print pages. Agents can thus customize product pages with a personalized message before forwarding it to clients.

The diversity of tour options—including city and regional tours—provided by Amtrak Vacations is noteworthy. Packages include travel on Amtrak, car rentals, hotel accommodations, plus sightseeing excursions.

What is a quality Amtrak Vacations tour like? The Glacier National Park tour, for example, includes six nights’ hotel accommodation, two nights’ train accommodation; one-way Amtrak from Chicago to Glacier National Park and from there to Seattle in Roomette accommodations. There is a range of value-packed options as well.

O’Meara notes that Amtrak Vacations (Yankee Holidays is the administrator) works with more than 15,000 travel agents annually in the U.S. and has earned the loyalty of many, with select travel agency groups and consortia being given a “preferred” status. Customer satisfaction is high, he reports.

O’Meara adds that Amtrak Vacations appeals to a diverse clientele, including the luxury travel market. He contrasts the leisurely pace of rail travel to the frenzy of air travel and sees real opportunity in the year ahead. He urges travel agents to take a look at the company’s entire program and attractions.

Agents who need help with groups can directly contact O’Meara ([email protected]; 978-867-1140). For additional information and reservations, they should call 866-3-AMTRAK (866-326-8725).

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