Train more popular than flying overall among Aito clients

Train has pipped flying as the most appealing way to travel to or on holiday among clients of specialist travel firms – but flights remain the most favoured among agency customers.

In a survey of 12,000 customers of 40 companies in The Specialist Travel Association (Aito), including tour operators and travel agents, rail was chosen as ‘extremely or very appealing’ by 52% overall, just above air, which was cited by 50% of all respondents.

But when the figures were broken down into responses of customers of travel agents and tour operators, flying was in fact the most popular form of transport for clients of Aito agents, at 61%. The figure for Aito operators was lower, with 49.5% of clients choosing air travel.

Rail was less popular with Aito agents than Aito operators, with 40% of agents’ customers choosing rail compared with 52.5% of operators’ clients.

Out of rail, air and coach travel, coach was the least popular way to travel, coming in as ‘extremely or very appealing’ to 17% of customers overall. Broken down, 18% of operators’ customers preferred coach but only 11.5% of agents’ customers.

It was the first time the survey, conducted by customer data and insights firm Spike and now in its 10th year, had asked the question on the most appealing mode of transport.

Spike director Roy Barker said: “Air travel is still appealing to people; it’s the only way to get to some places. But rail pipped it and people seem to like it a lot although the practicalities of train travel and the differences in product quality can cause problems for operators.”

Aito operator Transindus said there were destinations where clients preferred to use rail travel once on holiday such as Japan. “People book these journeys because they are interested in them,” she said.

Ramble Worldwide said it was seeing increasing enquiries about rail travel, but sales and marketing director Jim Eite stressed: “It’s not driving a significant increase in bookings. With flying, it’s much cheaper and easier. Rail is difficult to book.”

But Sunvil chairman Noel Josephides agreed, calling rail travel out of the UK a “challenge” to organise and book for clients.

“It’s a pain in the neck administratively,” he said, and claimed: “People are doing it because they have got time or don’t like flying, not because they have got a bent towards being sustainable.”

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