"I believe there will be rapid advances in ticketless travel, with automated contactless technology becoming the norm."
This week we held an exclusive interview with the managing director of Railbookers. The company was originally set up in the UK with the aim to offer a portfolio of holidays to Europe, North America and beyond by train. A team of ‘train geeks’ as they like to put it, research to deliver the best value holiday for their customers with a range of exciting rail experiences and insider knowledge. Peter Traynor speaks to our reporter Sarah Wright to offer his insight into the rail leisure industry – why he enjoys it and what’s next for rail between now and ten years’ time.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Peter Traynor (PT): I am relatively new to the rail industry, most of my career has been spent in the travel industry. Railbookers ( @railbookers ) is a tour operator which, as the name suggests sells rail travel. Where the business is unique is that all holidays are tailormade so not packages for groups of travellers. The company was formed in 2003. Amtrak Vacations, the official tour operator for the US railway company Amtrak acquired Railbookers in 2016 and hired me to run and grow the business. There is a huge amount of demand for rail travel helped greatly by the ongoing series of TV programmes on rail travel hosted by everyone from Michael Portillo to John Sergeant to Chris Tarrant.
Prior to Raillbookers I have 30 years working in various sectors within the travel industry, including coach travel, charter flights and car rental. Truly a case of ‘Trains, Planes and Automobiles’!
SW: What do like most about your job?
PT: Railbookers has changed a lot over the past year and we have lofty ambitions for the future. It may sound like a cliché but what I enjoy most is the variety – no day is ever the same. We sell rail holidays all over the world, so enquiries on any given day can range from a one night Eurostar break to Lille, to a long-haul trip encompassing an Amtrak sleeper service from Chicago to Seattle, or a train ride from Prague to Budapest. It has been very satisfying to see how the new young management team here has risen to the challenge of change as we have repositioned the business away from its initial reliance on short city breaks to France and Belgium to become a true worldwide rail holiday operator.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
PT: There have been many challenges this year whether reacting to external events in Paris, Brussels and Nice or dealing with the transformation of the internal operation of the business. Within a short period of time we got a new premises, a new operating system, new phones and reservation systems, as well as new team members. On top of this, the constant challenge is to stay ahead of the ever-changing demands of our customers. The amount of information available to customers means we have to keep up to date in order to stay relevant and for our service to offer value.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
PT: I believe there will be rapid advances in ticketless travel, with automated contactless technology becoming the norm. New bullet trains are likely to increase and I would imagine ever faster, safer services linking the main European cities. As a holiday operator however, sometimes faster isn’t always better. For example the new tunnel through the Swiss Alps to Milan saves time for a busy European businessman, but also misses out some spectacular scenery. We recommend that our holidaymakers stick to the slower, scenic route – getting there is half the fun!
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
PT: Easily my most memorable rail journey was the overnight from Vancouver to Jasper through the Canadian Rockies. It could be called a sleeper service but in reality very little time was wasted sleeping as in the bright moonlight I was lucky enough to experience views from my bunk of mountains, forests and lakes – which were spectacular. A close second is the scenic route from Switzerland to Italy through the Gotthard Pass, also our most popular holiday routing, truly making the journey part of the experience.
Without doubt my least favourite rail journey is the Thameslink one from Bromley South to Blackfriars – my daily commute!
SW: Peter, thank you so much for your time and I’m sure our readers will be looking forward to a holiday after reading this!
To find out more about Railbookers you can view their website here: https://www.railbookers.com/
Last week's 5 minutes with... Marius Macku, Senior Associate, Public Policy & Government Policy for Uber.
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World bring a 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
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