By: Harvey Chipkin
October 21, 2022
Flexibility, sustainability, convenience and luxury. Rail travel delivers on all those issues, and there is one company that presents a world of tour products so clients can visit U.S. and international destinations by train.
That company is Railbookers Group, which incorporates three brands: Railbookers, Amtrak Vacations, and Yankee Holidays.
Railbookers Group became the parent company name earlier this year because it “aligned more with who we are,” said CEO Frank Marini. He explained that Railbookers is a platform for finding rail travel options outside the 48 U.S. contiguous states, including Alaska, Canada and Europe. Amtrak Vacations provides programs within the 48 states and connections into Canada, and Yankee Holidays offers city packages.
Demonstrating Railbookers’ flexibility is the fact that tours are built on travel advisor behavior, Marini said. Company analysts observe what trips are booked by advisors and then create itineraries that mirror them.
“Nothing we put out hasn’t been sold yet,” said Marini, “which means we are launching new products at all times.” On top of that, advisors can further customize any journey, substituting a hotel or activity, etc.
Myriad Travel Options
The ultimate flexibility, Marini said, is that a tour only needs one person to ensure a departure. Also, unlike other tours, a trip can start on any day that there is a train departure and end any day there is a train arrival. There are 500 Amtrak stations in the U.S. and 26,000 rail stations in Europe, an astounding infrastructure that lends itself to an infinite number of tour combinations.
Flexibility also means accommodating last-minute bookings. In one recent week, 30 percent of customers booked travel within six weeks of departure – even for Europe trips. Marini said the company is thankful that it has thousands of partners, daily allocations, and can quickly obtain hotel space in any category. Most trips involve a call to a Railbookers agent who can help with anything except air. That includes transfers, hotels, sightseeing and more.
And, yes, rail often means luxury. Because Railbookers has relationships with all national rail systems, the company can offer products like the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in Europe, the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, the Glacier Express in Switzerland and others. Everyone is looking for a little luxury, said Marini, which is also a flexible matter when it comes to rail tours. For instance, a client might want to spend one night in a five-star hotel to celebrate a birthday or anniversary.
“The whole trip might be luxury,” Marini said, “or just a piece.”
Whether a client’s priorities are luxury, flexibility or anything else, Marini said there is a rail trip available that will fit. “It’s all driven by customers customizing their trips,” he said. “They are in control.”
• Rail travelers are not necessarily rail fans, or buffs and shouldn’t be pigeonholed as “rail people,” Railbookers CEO Frank Marini said. Rail is only a component, and it is the overall experience that counts. It’s different when it comes to luxury trips where the train is a big part of the experience.
• Railbookers offers webinars, which educate advisors on different products and the types of questions they can expect from customers.
• Advisors should be on the lookout for flash sales, which they can pass along to customers.
• They should stress convenience, pointing out that travelers can avoid airports and walk out of the rail station into their destination.