|Belmond Grand Hibernian|
Tour operators and wholesalers are increasingly incorporating train travel into their product offerings in Europe. At Avanti Destinations, more than half of the multi-destination itineraries agents book use rail travel. Rome-Florence-Venice, the London-Paris Eurostar and Madrid-Barcelona high-speed AVE routes are especially popular.
Avanti showcases scenic rail travel in two of its new itineraries for 2016.
“Denmark & Norway: Scandinavian Discovery” includes a Norway in a Nutshell rail pass. The eight-night tour features Copenhagen, Oslo, Flam and Bergen. “France & Switzerland: City Streets & Mountain Peaks” visits Paris, Chamonix and Lucerne, with 1st class rail between cities.
Helping agents decide if clients should purchase a rail pass or individual transfers is a specialty of Vacations By Rail. The company provides global rail travel and tours.
“My first experience traveling by train was with a Eurailpass. That’s probably true for a lot of agents. Things have changed quite a bit. It’s also much easier to book rail travel than in the past,” Vacations By Rail Co-Founder and President Todd Powell tells Travel Agent.
The rise in high-speed service means fewer overnight trains in western and central Europe. Day trips between major tourist hubs are more common.
“Price-wise, it’s a competitive solution. If you’re going city center to city center, you’re much better off with a train. It’s easier than flying to an airport outside of the city,” said Powell.
Trains provide the chance to mingle with locals. And they’re increasingly popular with families, said Powell.
“You don’t need to do a super-long rides. Do a couple hours on the train if you have kids. It’s great fun to stretch your legs by walking to the café car. And there’s always something interesting to see along the way,” said Powell.
Tour operator Cox & Kings introduced a new family-friendly train journey this year.
The eight-night “Switzerland: Lakes, Alps and Panoramic Trains” private journey includes Lucerne, Montreux, Zermatt, Andermatt and Zurich. Highlights include the legendary cogwheel train to the top of Mt. Rigi and the world-renowned Glacier Express.
“It’s been fun for us to include the train rides through the Swiss Alps. It’s a great adventure for families to take together,” Scott Wiseman, president the Americas, Cox & Kings, tells Travel Agent.
If families are considering a luxury trip, a new rail service launching in Ireland should be of interest. The Belmond Grand Hibernian will debut in August 2016. The train accommodates up to 40 guests in luxury cabins with private baths. Families can opt for double cabins that interconnect with twin rooms. The train features two dining rooms plus an observation car.
The Grand Hibernian will operate a two-night itinerary from Dublin to Belfast. Highlights will include the Titanic Experience, Old Bushmills Distillery and the Giant’s Causeway. A four-night journey travels west towards Cork and Blarney Castle, then on to the Lakes of Killarney, Connemara National Park and Galway. A six-night option combines the two.
“The train is really the first of its kind for Ireland. The cars have been stripped down to the frames and completely redone in light, modern tones. It’s extremely elegant. Belmond also operates The Royal Scotsman out of Edinburg. Everything they do is top-tier. Expect gourmet cuisine and lots of Irish whiskey. The service will be amazing. We’re already seeing lots of interest,” said Powell.