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The 90 day rail booking horizon – is it enough?

Philip Martin

Head of Marketing, Amadeus Rail, Amadeus IT Group

I had the opportunity to sit down with the founder of Seat61.com Mark Smith during the recent Amadeus Rail forum to discuss the future of the rail industry.

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During our discussion we talked about his rail trip from London to Vienna , a stunning journey along the banks of the River Rhine in a comfortable overnight sleeper, waking up to a continental breakfast before arriving in Vienna.

Themes of the Forum

Our theme for the 5th Amadeus Rail Forum was “towards borderless rail travel” and I asked Mark a few telling questions along this theme; what has to change for rail travel to win over the hearts of car and air travellers?

If there was one thing that Mark thought could make a difference over a short period, it would be the 90 day booking horizon, “is it enough?” he asks, especially when in competition with airlines. Mark outlines what would be needed in order for this to work better than it does today to really provide rail travellers with confidence when booking their journey.

Long distance rail travel is predominantly leisure biased and Italy and Spain still come out as the most sought after destinations for Mark’s business, however, it does raise many questions from first time travellers. Mark believes that the industry still doesn’t cater to or even believe that there are people wishing to travel such distances by train. However, from my own experience on our Antibes to Vienna trip  and confirmed by Mark, it’s a wonderful experience with some fantastic scenery along the way, it’s just a question of getting people to take that first trip.

Connection Worries

I asked Mark about the type of questions he would get from travellers who are ready to embark on such a trip; “a lot depends on whether we are talking about a British person or a European” he says, “overseas visitors need far more reassurance about how you ‘check in’ for a train and luggage, they are obsessed with luggage, will there be room for it?” Another thing is whether the traveller is facing forward, something we don’t take into account when flying.

Connections are also a worry for passengers but as Mark says with a smile “a connection of 10 minutes is more than enough, it only takes 2 minutes, so I ask the traveller what you are going to do for the other 8?”

Have a look at the interview below and let us know what you think about some of the interesting points Mark raises in the video.


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