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A ‘travel agent for the travel agent’: CEO on the Railbookers difference

Despite its name, Railbookers is not a rail ticketer, far from it, says Railbookers Group President and chief executive Frank Marini.

Despite its name, Railbookers is not a rail ticketer, far from it, says Railbookers Group President and chief executive Frank Marini.

“So you’ve got rail ticketers; you’ve got FIT companies that may sell a little bit of rail; and then you’ve got escorted operators. There really is no one like us that has rail, accommodation, sightseeing, car rental, ferries,” the Railbookers boss said over an intimate lunch in Sydney on Monday.

“We go anywhere the train goes, any date the customers want to go … so there’s really nobody like us.” 

As the “predominant FIT rail operator worldwide”, Marini sees many clear distinctions between what his company does and what other operators in the rail and touring space do.

“One of the things that makes us really, really different is how we create products. So today we have almost 5,000 itineraries, but every itinerary is customisable. Every single itinerary started from something that was tailor-made,” he said.

Giving clients what they want

Railbookers Swiss
Rail travel in Obwalden, Switzerland

“So we never create anything on our own – our travel advisors and customers do. And what we do is look at what was patterned every week.” 

“We don’t have random space on a cruise ship or we’re not trying to get to a certain amount of people on an escorted tour. We don’t hold any space.

“So we never promote anything that’s actually not selling, because we don’t have space to fill.”

Marini puts it best when he says Railbookers is “just a piece of a travel advisor’s customer’s trip”. 

“So as an example, they could be doing a river cruise … we’re doing the post-river cruise where they’re finishing in Barcelona and going on to St Moritz. They may want to go down to Lake Como and then go down to Florence and Rome. We do that other piece, we don’t do river cruising,” he explained.

“So we fit in a lot of different pieces and although we’re a tour operator, I like to say we’re the travel agent for the travel agent because most travel advisors don’t know rail. We speak rail, no problem.”

Aussie market back on track

And it apparently talks rail to a lot of customers down under, where its main demographic is the “50-plus market”.

“So our Australian market is our second biggest market outside the US. So, it really has come back strong [post-pandemic],” he told Karryon.

On Aussie booking trends, he said Railbookers was seeing “both short-term windows, as well as long-term”. 

“We’ll have customers that will call us today, book today, leave today. We’ll have customers that … book today for two years out,” he explained.

“So (last week) we saw 47 per cent of our bookings happening in the next three months (August, September and October) to Europe. But we’re seeing that as well as all of next year further out. 

“Destinations we’re seeing are Switzerland; we’re seeing Italy; we’re seeing Scotland, Norway, Canada.”

Rail travel
Barcelona, Spain.

What’s coming up?

But Railbookers also has “a number of new products coming” that will particularly appeal to the Aussie market.

“The beauty for us is that … when we see a pattern, we turn it into a package. And we’re seeing so many new creative itineraries that’ll be out very soon,” he told Karryon

“We’re seeing Australians do different combinations in Europe that we’ve never seen before.”

Meanwhile, Marini lauded the company’s 24/7 support for travel advisors “no matter where they are”.

“So if I just bought a rail ticket, what happens if there’s a strike as we see with the French and the Italians at times; the train’s delayed, where do I go? We’ve got people around the world 24/7.” 

Railbookers is currently offering travel advisors an incentive of up to $100 on top of regular commission when they sell 2023 independent rail holidays.