ORIENT-EXPRESS HOTELS TRAINS & CRUISES (WWW.ORIENT-EXPRESS.COM) HAS RELEASED ITS 2008 RAIL ITINERARIES, and trips both old and new are scheduled, including the classic London-Istanbul via Paris or Venice journeys aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the company's most fabled train.
To agents, deluxe rail travel remains a truly exclusive product, and Orient-Express has long been at the forefront of the market. The train was made famous by Agatha Christie's detective novel Murder on the Orient Express and its 1974 star-studded film adaptation. According to agents, today's deluxe rail clientele are not much different from those Christie chronicled in her 1934 book: affluent, leisurely tourists.
"It's an expression in luxury," says George Tobias, a travel consultant with Linden Travel Bureau in New York City. On some itineraries, he says, "the experience only lasts about 24 hours...and it does not offer you enough of a contrast from other, less expensive options unless money is no object. You can do the same thing for less, just minus the gourmet meal." In other words, the purpose of such a trip is to live glamorously.
Target Clientele and New Offers
Michele Hoey, president of Pennsylvania Travel outside Philadelphia, agrees with Tobias' assessment. "If you have a client who is well-traveled and looking to do different things around the world, that's who you promote this trip to," she says. "It could also appeal to a history buff, because you can experience a piece of history firsthand."
One of Orient-Express' most popular trains, The Royal Scotsman, operates two- to seven-night journeys out of Edinburgh. Of all the company's itineraries, Tobias says this may appeal most to those outside the typical demographic. "It's a relatively easy and interesting way to see Scotland without having to be motor-coached around," he says.
Making its debut with Orient-Express next year is an "Afloat in France," program, which combines Paris-originating rail travel with a barge cruise through Burgundy or Provence. The company is also introducing weeklong Venice Simplon-Orient-Express trips from Venice that spend two nights in Krakow. Outside Europe, Orient-Express operates luxury trains in Peru (to Machu Picchu) and Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand (the Eastern & Oriental Express).
Travel agents sending clients on an Orient-Express journey can call 800-524-2420 and speak with one of the three reservation agents.