For the first time in decades, rail travel is overtaking air travel. Rail operators are realising the potential of having a seated audience and at the same time, having a better understanding of their passengers’ demands. As well as offering better phone and laptop connections, passengers can enjoy free wi-fi and experience a seamless journey in a comfortable setting. Simultaneously, rail operators can further maximise advertising opportunities and sell more products on-board to improve their revenue. Eurostar is one of the rail companies looking to capitalise these benefits. But the UK-France high-speed rail service is not only maximising its potential on-board, they are also maximising it off-board. Last week, they unveiled their new luxury Business Premier lounge in Paris Gare du Nord. Eurostar claim that the Paris lounge will transform the travel experience for Business Premier passengers. Not only is a Michelin star food service provided at the station, but travellers can also admire contemporary French art and unwind at the sophisticated cocktail bar.
Nicolas Petrovic the Chief Executive for Eurostar, said: “The opening of the new business lounge in Paris is part of a wide-reaching programme of investment in our stations and our service. With its elegant design, calm environment and digital connectivity, the lounge will provide an unrivalled level of style and comfort for our business customers.” For Petrovic, the development of the new business lounge is a necessary service for the increasing expectations for the Eurostar brand. They have taken inspiration from airline lounges and luxury hotels rather than current train stations to improve the image and perception of business class train travel.
Recognising the importance of connectivity for travellers, the lounge is equipped with complimentary wi-fi, USB sockets and wireless chargers, making it the perfect place to catch up on work or meet with clients and colleagues. Situated on the top floor of the original 19th century building, and featuring high ceilings, marble fireplaces, a cocktail bar and intimate snug spaces, the lounge captures the spirit of a Parisian apartment. The lounge was designed by global architects, Softroom. But this is not all. The lounge will also be used to showcase contemporary French artists, which travellers will also have the opportunity of purchasing.
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But what other entitlements would a Business Traveller receive?
A Business Cocktail Bar: For customers looking to unwind at the end of the day, the new cocktail bar is the ultimate destination. Situated at the back of the lounge, the circular black and gold bar, provides an atmospheric space for travellers to sample a selection of cocktails designed by London Cocktail Club exclusively for Eurostar.
Complete with Michelin star menu: Michelin star chef and Eurostar Business Premier Culinary Director, Raymond Blanc OBE, has worked closely with the catering team to advise on seasonal dishes that combine the best of British and French cuisine. Raymond has even designed a bespoke tea exclusively for the lounge created by Tregothnan, Britain’s first and only tea producer.
Blanc, the Eurostar Business Premier Culinary Director, said: “Business travellers are looking for flexibility and a variety of food options when they are on the go. From a light snack before boarding the train to something more substantial. The new lounge features a selection of dishes which we hope will satisfy all appetites. All made with high quality sustainable produce.”
“Moving the Business Premier lounge to a new location within Paris Gare du Nord has enabled us to transform the travellers’ journey. Set in the top floor of the station, we’ve re-imagined the striking architecture of the original building, and created a series of different spaces to suit all occasions. From the light-filled working area, to the relaxing cocktail bar, the lounge offers a flexible environment to suit all needs,” explains Christopher Bagot, Director of Softroom.
The price of a single business class ticket from London to Paris is £276 whilst a return costs £490. With up to 19 daily services from London St Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord this opportunity can be relished by many customers. It appears that railways are not just a means of getting from A to B anymore. They are becoming sophisticated services offering many other amenities to improve customer experience as well as their profitability.
But this business investment is part of Eurostar’s attempt to attract more people to use their service following the Brexit uncertainty. Their recent high level investment is certainly a risk as Eurostar are conscious that their only route caters for those travelling between Britain and Europe. Analysts are uncertain about the effects of Brexit. Gerald Khoo, as reported in The Guardian, says there could be upsides and downsides: “Fewer MEPs and civil servants going to Brussels – but if UK companies really do pivot towards Paris, that could also be a boost.” Additionally, whilst the weak pound is benefitting European riders, British travellers will have to pay more.
CEO Petrovic has said in the past that he sees no benefits from Brexit. Eurostar which is 55% owned by the French national rail operator SNCF, says that the EU greatly promoted their service which established great business and employment opportunities.
Therefore, the Business Lounge investment is just one of the contingency plans along with a brand new fleet of trains in an effort to make this an attractive service for travellers and maintain Eurostar’s brand image.
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