Eye on Europe: Looking Ahead With Eurail

Planning a trip to Europe? Here’s what you need to know about traveling around the continent in 2018.

The “eurail pass” is a rail pass that allows you to travel throughout Europe. The pass includes unlimited travel on all trains, as well as free and discounted tickets in some countries.

“Find a ticket, pick up a guidebook, buy yourself a Eurail card, and JUST GO,” was the first piece of European travel advice I ever got. Fortunately, I paid attention and fell head over heels in love with the experience of exploring Europe by train using a Eurail pass on my very first trip to Europe.

I’m still captivated after 15 years.


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What makes this so unique? Eurail’s magical passes enable you to jump on and off most trains throughout Europe on the spur of the moment, providing an unrivaled amount of mobility and flexibility—ideal for multi-city, multi-country travelers.

However, it’s not just about going from Pretty Capital Point A to Bucket List Point B; merely taking the train in Europe becomes part of the adventure. You’ll recall relaxing while watching the landscape pass by out the window, enjoying supper and beverages in the dining car, and conversing with other passengers long after you return home. You won’t be able to obtain them on any other means of transportation.

I recently spoke with Yi Ding, Eurail’s Business and Growth Manager, about the company’s present status and some of the exciting new ideas that will determine the iconic passes’ future. Yi’s desire to travel and expand her company led her to pursue a career in the tourism sector. She joined Eurail in 2014 and is in charge of Eurail Pass distribution and growth. Since joining the firm, she has worked to raise awareness of Eurail and its rail passes among corporate audiences, with the goal of increasing sales. The transcript of our talk is available here.

(SH) Scott Hartbeck: What are the most significant facts regarding Eurail in general and Eurail passes in particular that travel consultants and passengers should be aware of?

Yi Ding (YD): Travel advisors should be aware that Eurail has created a distribution platform that makes selling and issuing Eurail Passes easier for travel businesses and OTAs. Travel firms may also offer the mobile Eurail Passes that will be released in 2020 via the new platform. OTAs may connect through an API connection, and the Eurail Ticketing System is available for offline sales (ETS).

Travelers will find it simpler to organize their trips with Eurail now that our mobile Pass system is up and running. Travelers may arrange their bucket list vacation throughout Europe with the train planner app. They may travel from Budapest to Vienna by night train and spend the day viewing the city’s numerous architectural treasures. They may arrange a ride on the Arlbergine line, which runs between Innsbruck and Bludenz through the spectacular beauty of the Austrian Alps, while they are in Austria. Train travel is more than just a means of traveling from point A to point B; it’s also a sustainable mode of transportation for people trying to lessen their carbon impact.

SH: Given the time of year, will there be anything new with Eurail in 2022 that travel advisers and passengers should be aware of?

YD: As a consequence of the travel slowdown during the epidemic, a few new routes have been launched in recent years that are relatively new for many of our visitors. The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as Macedonia and the United Kingdom, are included in these routes.

Due to the growing popularity of night trains, various additional routes have been announced, including a Vienna-Munich route, a Paris-Vienna route, and an Amsterdam-Zurich route, all of which will begin service this winter. There will also be a Nightjet train running between Zurich and Rome with a stop in Milan by the end of 2022. A new entrant to the market, European Sleeper, has a few projects in the works, including a train that will run from Brussels to Prague through Amsterdam in April 2022.

Prague train station, prague, eurail Inside Prague’s main station, there is a train (Photo by Scott Hartbeck)

SH: Eurail mobile passes have been in effect for quite some time. What has been the response of travelers?

YD: The mobile Pass, which can be used via the Rail Planner app, has been extremely well received by travelers. and we’re ecstatic by the good response to the mobile Pass. Our consumers prefer the mobile Pass over the paper Pass by more than 85 percent. It’s a single pass that works with dozens of railway companies in 33 countries, which is no minor achievement. Travelers may now plan their route, make adjustments to their schedule, and take advantage of partner savings all via the app now that we’ve gone mobile.

SH: Eurail just unveiled a new distribution platform that should make selling passes a lot simpler. How’s everything going over there?

YD: Eurail’s distribution partners account for a major portion of our yearly Pass sales. We linked new distributors Trip.com and rail travel start-up All Aboard after a quick migration from current distributors Rail Europe and SilverRail. As the travel industry prepares for recovery, as well as growing awareness in sustainable travel, we’ve noticed an uptick in interest in the distribution platform.

SH: What are the main advantages of marketing Eurail to travel agents?

YD: It’s a chance for travel advisers to capitalize on a new mode of transportation that offers flexibility and may be an experience in and of itself for the traveler. A visitor in Switzerland, for example, may ride the Glacier Express through some of the most stunning winter landscapes on the planet, and this is just one of our many scenic routes that can take passengers through vineyards in Italy and past castles in Germany and France. If a client is suffering from flygskam (flight shame), an adviser might suggest that they go by train, which is undoubtedly one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Furthermore, it has been shown that on distances of 1,000 to 1,500 km, trains are typically faster than flying when transportation to/from the airport and airport waiting hours are included in, with train passengers arriving directly in the city center. Our items are also commissionable, so it’s a win-win situation for both sides.

SH: Have Eurail travel habits changed as a result of the current Covid situation? Is Eurail expecting any of these trends to last?

YD: We’ve witnessed reduced booking windows, as have many of our industry colleagues, as travelers postpone making reservations due to the shifting Covid scenario and travel constraints. For the time being, we expect this to continue, but as travel rates rise and events resurface, people will likely begin to book farther in advance.

When we looked at our rider data, we found that the same places, such as Paris, Venice, Munich, and Florence, continue to be popular with our tourists. Metz, France, was one name on the list that stood out as a new inclusion, and after more investigation, we determined that it is likely because it is located at the crossroads of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, and so serves as a transit hub for tourists. However, since this city has a long and storied history dating back over 3,000 years, it may become a popular tourist destination in the near future.

Eurail, train travel, rail travel A traveler at a European railway station. (Photo courtesy of Eurail)

SH: What were the pre-pandemic patterns in European train travel that Eurail noticed?

YD: Prior to the pandemic, patterns in European train travel were strongly linked to broader travel sector trends. With the popularity of Game of Thrones, for example, we’ve seen a surge in American tourists planning trips to Croatia in the hopes of seeing shooting sites. France, Italy, and Spain are among the European places that have long been at the top of everyone’s travel wish list, but we’ve also seen an increase in interest in less-traveled areas such as the Balkans.

SH: Do you have any recommendations for persons wishing to go off the beaten path, such as countries and locations with strong train connections and destinations but less Eurail tourists than others?

YD: The Baltic countries were just introduced last year, so once travel is more accessible, we would definitely encourage visiting those areas. The towns of Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius are all stunning, and many of our visitors may not aware that ferries to Sweden and Denmark, as well as vice versa, are available from the Baltics.

Travelers are encouraged to ‘go one stop farther’ by Eurail. While many of our tourists’ bucket lists include visits to European cities, the train enables them to explore numerous off-the-beaten-path places. These lesser-known sites provide tourists with a distinct experience while also allowing them to avoid the throng by simply exiting the train at the next stop.

SH: I’ve always found that many individuals are unaware of all of the other perks of a Eurail ticket, such as discounts on a variety of different European vacation activities. Which one do you believe we should all be discussing more?

YD: The two advantages we should be discussing are the ferry discounts. We’ve previously mentioned a few boat routes, but Eurail members may save money on ferries all throughout Europe. The Balearia ferries travel between mainland Spain and a group of Spanish islands known as the Balearic Islands, as well as to North African countries such as Morocco and Algeria. There are the Grimaldi lines, which feature Malta as one of its destinations, which may be considered an off-the-beaten-path European vacation. The ability to travel by ferry greatly expands the options available to Eurail passengers. There’s also the Eurail Greek Island Pass, which enables you to travel by ferry to 53 Greek Islands and visit some of Greece’s most popular locations including Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini.

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“Eurail pass countries” is a website that helps you plan your trip. It has information on what passes are available, how to book them, and the different types of passes. Reference: eurail pass countries.

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