Several months after major product and pricing changes at Eurail, the response from travel agents, said Clarissa Mattos, market manager Americas & Pacific, is that selling rail travel has become “much easier.” The major change was the elimination of multi-country rail passes in favor of One Country Passes and a Global Pass that offers access to 31 rail systems.
Mattos said that agents had found the proliferation of multi-country passes “too complex” and ”overwhelming.” She added that agents have also been receptive to other changes: the introduction of three-day passes; price reductions of up to 37 percent depending on class and rail system; the introduction of a senior discount (10 percent off); a new second class option; and the addition of Great Britain (Eurostar), Macedonia and Lithuania to the network.
In addition, said Mattos, Eurail has certified about 800 travel advisors as specialists a year after establishing the Eurail Specialist Academy (eurailacademy.com). It offers CEU credits and other benefits for those completing the seven-chapter course.
Discussing the changes, Mattos said that now when clients want to use rail to more than one country, they should move immediately to the Global Pass because pricing is better. She said the addition of Eurostar “really completes our offer of covering the Continent” and it will not be affected by Brexit.
The addition of the three-day pass (to be used on 3 days within a month), she said, offers an ideal pre-or post-cruise or side trip during a vacation. A three-day First-Class pass is about $300. There are many lengths of pass available—ranging up to a three-month Global Pass; the One Country Passes are shorter.
Mattos said another reason for the simplification is perennial confusion about what Eurail is, although it is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The organization is owned by its member rail lines and is the distributor for passes. It sells through three General Sales Agents: Rail Europe, STA Travel and ACP Rail. Rail Europe is most frequently used by agents in North America.
Agents are key to the product, said Mattos, because many travelers come from countries where rail is not as well established. They are also able to explain the geography of how the rail systems work.
Mattos said some of the main trends Eurail is finding are increasing travel to Eastern Europe countries and Scandinavia. She also said travelers are taking advantage of non-rail benefits such as a Greek Island Pass, which offers ferry service to 53 islands.
In fact, Mattos said, “Eurail is not selling rail travel, it is selling Europe.” Buying a pass provides discounts on hotels, attractions, local transportation and other travel products. For example, it offers €20 off Disneyland Paris entrance tickets
She said the advantage of passes over point-to-point travel are many: price, because it becomes cheaper after a traveler buys more than two point-to-point tickets; flexibility because if a traveler misses a train they can take the next one; and the fact that the passes are good for a full 24-hours of each day chosen so that multiple trips can be taken in a day.
Mattos also said while low-cost airlines offer lower fares, there are many hidden costs involved in air travel not to mention the fact that it’s so much easier when travelers arrive in a city center. Also, rail passengers can store their bags at rail stations as they move around the Continent. And the amount of baggage is unlimited.
“This is the best way to explore Europe,” concluded Mattos. “It offers a way to make contact with locals who also ride the trains and to connect with the landscape.”
—Buy passes early (they are available 11 months in advance), then reserve seats when they become open. Reservations are necessary on some trains like high-speed and scenic trains and there is an extra cost involved. Agents should book those seats as soon as they become available. That is a way to show their expertise to clients.
—Travelers should download the Eurail app so they can have all the information on scheduling, itineraries, etc. available at their fingertips.
—A recently created Trade Portal is a reference point for information: how to use, how to sell, itinerary suggestions and more. Agents are encouraged to register to have access to a sales manual, infographics, videos and more.
—Agents are entitled to Eurail Passes with a 75 percent discount.
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