Railbookers urges agents to offer train options as it expands portfolio

Railbookers has urged more travel agents to suggest train as an option when giving quotes as it unveils plans to expand into southeast Asia and return to Japan.

The tour operator is poised to launch Laos and Vietnam in the next month to six weeks and hopes to add Japan to its programme in 2025. In February it added South America, with a focus on Peru (pictured).

President and chief executive Frank Marini described rail travel as “a sleeping giant” which many tour operators now offer as an option but has yet to reach its full sales potential in the UK.

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Around 65% of the Atol-bonded operator’s sales are via agents in the UK but Marini said many agents were not aware it offered itineraries that include rail travel from a client’s local train station or bespoke packages including flights with rail in destination.

“Agents don’t have to piece it altogether from the local UK rail station, we can do that, we are a one-stop shop,” said Marini, adding: “Rail travel is like a sleeping giant. It is here to stay, the infrastructure is in place. There is always a job to do in terms of education, and sharing with agents what is booking and why.”

Agents still did not always think to offer clients a rail option, added Marini.

He said: “It may be because many agents have not travelled this way themselves. We provide support and training and that’s why we like to have a three-way calls with the agent and customer, to help with any questions and build agents’ confidence.”

The operator, which offers agents a 20% discount to take their own Railbookers holiday rather than fam trips, reported UK sales up 14% year on year, which is lower than its US, Australia and New Zealand markets.

In the last week, 49% of UK bookings were for June and July departures, indicating a strong late booking trend.

He attributed slower UK sales growth to the cost-of-living crisis and customers prioritising  ‘fly and flop’ holidays over rail trips, highlighting a gap between bookings of short rail breaks and top-end luxury train journeys.

“We seem to have shorter breaks and then high-end trips, with the middle part being affected,” he said.

The update comes as the operator continues to expand its portfolio worldwide.

Anna Davies, director of partnership marketing, said the operator was expanding its range of long-haul destinations based on demand and increased popularity of certain destinations.

Railbookers has just launched Brazil and Argentina while Vietnam and Laos will be both be added in the near future for the first time.

The operator offered Japan pre-Covid. “We are hoping to launch Japan for 2025 departures, and at the same time we are looking at our Europe product and where there are opportunities to expand,” added Davies.

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