Rail Europe: One stop shop for train travel

Kunal Kothari – Executive Director RailEurope India
Kunal Kothari – Executive Director RailEurope India

Year after year’s number of Indian tourists travelling to Europe is growing manyfold; their preferred mode of transport is train. Travelling by train is not only convenient but reasonable too, if booked well in advance. There are 50 train companies/railways, 35 countries part of Rail Europe. They are expanding their wings with Japan Railways, Canadian VIA Rail, (South) Korean railways. Soon they would add even some of luxury trains from around the world into their distribution system. Each passing year, increasing number of Indian travellers is learning the benefits of booking holiday’s early.The tickets, the closer you are to the travel date, the more expensive it can get. During German tourism road show (GNTO) which was held at The Leela hotel, Rail Europe also participated. Kunal Kothari – Executive Director Rail Europe India, shared detailed information which would be helpful to Indian tourists, in conversation with Sitaram Mewati. 

What is Raileurope?

Rail Europe makes exploring Europe by train easy, seamless, and memorable for over 5.5 million travellers a year. Opened in 1932 as a European rail travel Distribution Company, we are the leading authority and one-stop-shop for planning and booking European train travel and sightseeing products. Based in Paris, with 6 offices around the globe, over 350 employees are committed to serving travellers and travel agents from the Americas, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Africa. From rail passes to train tickets and reservations, we provide access to a vast array of products from over 50 European train companies. At Rail Europe, we continually move ahead, striving to progress, innovate, and be outstanding in all that we do.

ICE train of Germany
ICE train of Germany

How is it beneficial to Indian tourists travelling to Europe?

Train travel in Europe saves you hasslefree airport struggles or losing your way while driving around. With stations being right in city centres, in close proximity of many hotels and sight-seeing places, etc., train travel is not only efficient but also smooth. With the variety of products available, there is one to suit the itinerary of each traveller. In addition, it can be cost effective with variety of prices for adults, children, seniors and youth travellers. With 240,000 kilometres of track, rail reaches into virtually every corner of Europe through forests, fields and mountains that just aren’t accessible by road. And of course, it is also the European way of travel with it being one of the most popular modes of transportation. Not to forget, trains are far more environment friendly and what better way to experience the high-speed trains before they become a reality in India.

How economical are tickets and passes, if booked in India?

Depending on the countries you are travelling to, the number of rail travel days, preferred class of travel etc., passes can be as cheap as € 80. And tickets can be as cheap as € 10, depending on the distance, how early you book and some related factors. In case of tickets, it is really important that they are booked very early as the same fares are available to the local Europeans. As I mentioned earlier, train is the preferred mode of transport for the Europeans.

How many countries / total destinations are covered by Rail Europe?

50 train companies/railways, 35 countries, 1 source – Rail Europe. We not only work with European carriers but also with Japan Railways, Canadian VIA Rail, (South) Korean railways and we are working towards adding even some of those luxury trains from around the world into our distribution system.

How many tourists from India purchased RailEurope pass/tickets in last 3 years?

We had about 7.3 Lakh tickets issued from 2014 until 2016. In 2017, until August, we have already issued over 2.6L tickets and we are hoping to break the 3L barrier for this year.

Are RailEurope pass/tickets gaining popularity among Indian tourists?

Year on Year, we have good growth irrespective of global conditions and with each passing year, increasing number of Indian travellers are learning the benefits of booking holidays early. That is helping our travellers to reduce their costs and of course, increase popularity of Rail Europe products.

How cheap would be tickets/passes in India, if booked well in advance?

There can’t really be a benchmark, per se. Passes, for example, have a fixed price throughout the year. Point to point tickets on the other hand, of the high-speed trains, have dynamic pricing and can sometimes be as cheap as 15% of the highest fare slab. As I said, more and more Indian tourists are learning the benefits of planning and booking early. We see the impact.

How about last minute booking, Are they cheap or expensive?

For the tickets, the closer you are to the travel date, the more expensive it can get. Of course, this depends on the routes you travel. Some countries do not have any dynamic pricing policy so the prices are the same through the year. Passes of course have a flat rate for the year.

Bernina Express - The Bernina Express crosses the famous Brusio Circular Viaduct - SBB (Switzerland)
Bernina Express – The Bernina Express crosses the famous Brusio Circular Viaduct – SBB (Switzerland)

Is there any concessional schemes offered to tourist, if yes, which month?

Well, just like for any other consumer products, there are no promotions during the peak sales months. Like I always say, no discount on gold/silver jewellery during Diwali or other festive periods. We have been having some or the other promotions during the off peak months. For example, starting September until December, we have about 6 different promotions. We currently have a promotion on the German Rail Pass, Swiss Travel Pass, Eurail and Britrail Passes starting from October etc.. There is either a cost reduction or a value add – a percentage off or additional days at no extra cost. There is a restriction for sale period but all of them allow travel into 2018.

Does Indian tourist have to pay fare in Euro or they can purchase it in INR? 

While the products are priced in Euros or Swiss Francs, travellers can pay in Indian Rupees too as per prevailing exchange rates.

Author: Sitaram Mewati

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