From long romantic journeys to super-speedy adventures, riding the rails has long held an allure for travellers. I still remember the excitement I felt the first time I took the train from Paris to Bordeaux as a child, passing through spectacular scenery and stopping at different destinations along the way. When travelling by rail, your journey becomes an integral and delightful part of your holiday experience, and savouring the view from your seat is as much part of the holiday as arriving at the destination.
Half a century ago, Japan built the world’s first high-speed rail network – known as yume chotokkyu – literally, the “super-express of dreams.” Fast forward to today, high-speed rail has become a dream come true for travellers all around the world. They can now visit many cities of their choice in comfort and style, while enjoying breath taking scenery on board a high-speed train. The rail travel market has grown nearly tenfold in the past 25 years, and the growth is largely driven by Asia Pacific. Multi-billion Dollar networks are already underway in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, with the high-speed rail (HSR) line linking Singapore and Kuala Lumpur expected to start operations around 2026.
With so many transportation options now available to choose from, be it air, rail, bus or car-sharing, we are seeing the rise of multi-modal travelling. As Asia Pacific works towards a multi-modal travel future, how can rail become better integrated into the entire travel ecosystem to offer a smoother experience for travellers?
“Railing” in the Asia Pacific audience
According to our report, Future Traveller Tribes 2030: Understanding Tomorrow’s Traveller, high-speed rail is expected to make up 30 percent of new track worldwide by 2030. We are tracking exciting momentum in the rail industry as high-speed rail networks develop in Asia Pacific, with Japan alone moving over 400 million rail passengers per year, and China adding no less than 8,000 kilometres of high-speed track by 2020.
With this transformation in motion, one of the key areas that rail players need to address is that of making rail (not only high speed) more accessible to both the travel seller and the passenger. It should be easier for travellers to search for, and book, their flight, hotel and train ticket at the same time, from the same place.
Today if you want to book a cross-border or multi-modal journey, it can still be frustrating given the complexity and challenge of the booking process. From personal experience, it can often include some lengthy navigation on various travel sites to even find out the rail options on offer in some countries. Despite the huge growth and opportunity in Asia Pacific, rail content is not nearly as searchable and visible to travel sellers, or travellers, compared to other modes of transport.
Linking rail to the ecosystem
At present, many travellers do not consider train services as part of their journey, because it does not show up as an option in their online searches for route information. It’s likely that international visitors are also not familiar with the rail options at their destination, or they are unaware that rail can in fact be a favourable option for shorter domestic transits.
The integration of rail content in the Global Distribution System (GDS) is a crucial step towards increasing this visibility for travellers. By making rail travel routes available through local travel agents as well as online giants such as Expedia, travellers will have more choices available to them at all stages of trip planning. Not only that, travellers can then book and pay for different journey options in a single transaction, instead of going through the existing convoluted process of identifying multiple routes and purchasing multiple tickets.
For instance, Amadeus Air-Rail Display allows travel agents to easily compare rail and air journey times and check availability on popular air-rail routes, all in a single display. Travel sellers can leverage this platform to sell rail more efficiently, making the booking of rail travel much easier for both agents and travellers.
In fact, one of the most common multi-modal travel options is booking your flight and your connecting airport to city rail ticket with it. Through integrated solutions such as Amadeus Airport Express, travel agencies can easily add an airport express train ticket to a traveller’s flight or hotel room at the moment of booking. If you’re anything like me, this definitely eases the stress of arriving to an unfamiliar city, not speaking the local language and trying to navigate the local airport ticket office to buy a train ticket. Instead, you can proceed through departures and hop on your train to the city centre stress free!
There are huge opportunities for rail companies to innovate and provide more personalised travel services, bringing a ‘door-to-door’ experience one step closer to reality. As we embark on the multi-modal journey, collaboration between key industry players is key to overcome the challenges and enable the traveller of tomorrow a seamless travel experience from their initial search right through to arrival at their destination.
(This article is written by Pierre-Yves Guillaume, Head of Rail & Ground Transportation, Amadeus APAC and published without any change.)