OTM 2024: India Emerges as Rail Europe’s Second Largest Market For The First Time In 90 Years

Rail Europe

In an interview with Travel and Food Network, Rail Europe’s President and CEO, Björn Bender, unveiled that for the first time in 90 years, India has surged to become Rail Europe’s second-largest market.

Despite challenges like visa appointment delays and logjams, a considerable number of Indian travelers explored renowned European destinations such as London, Switzerland, France, and Italy last year.

While the United States continued to hold its position as the primary market, India has now surpassed both China and Japan. Rail Europe, a prominent rail ticketing operator, saw approximately 5 million train tickets sold to European destinations last year, with half a million originating from India alone. This marks a remarkable 60% increase in the company’s global revenue.

With established partnerships with leading Indian travel agencies such as MakeMyTrip, Thomas Cook, and Swisstours, Rail Europe proudly asserts itself as the premier choice for European rail tickets. Offering a diverse array of products, the company collaborates with over 200 rail suppliers, offering sought-after rail passes like the Swiss Travel Pass and the Eurail Pass. Its comprehensive catalog encompasses renowned rail providers such as SNCF, SBB, Eurostar, Trenitalia, Italo, DB, Renfe, ÖBB, SNCB, NS, OUIGO Spain, and National Rail.

Rail Europe’s current strategy revolves around significant investment, particularly in technology, exemplified by the introduction of new products aimed at simplifying rail bookings for both travel agents and the growing number of passengers who prefer to book directly through platforms like Rail Europe’s own website. As a privately-owned company, Rail Europe has strategically chosen to concentrate on serving customers within Europe, aligning its efforts with areas of highest demand.

According to Bender, the company continuously expands its offerings, with new fares, products, and operators being incorporated weekly. He emphasizes the necessity for “agnostic players” in the industry, enabling passengers to compare fares and schedules—a feature he believes rail travel has lagged behind the aviation sector by a decade or more. Bender notes the increasing preference among customers for neutral platforms like Skyscanner.

OTM 2024: India Emerges as Rail Europe’s Second Largest Market For The First Time In 90 Years
Sanjay Dhar, CEO of Travel and Food Network (left) and Björn Bender, Rail Europe’s President and CEO (rights).

Presently, Rail Europe sells approximately 5 million tickets annually, collaborating with 200 operators across Europe. Bender emphasizes the demand for neutral platforms that facilitate transparent comparison of prices, routes, and schedules. He highlights the inconsistency in pricing for identical seats on the same train, depending on the booking website used.

To address these needs, Rail Europe has enhanced its website functionality, allowing customers to compare prices and schedules directly. Moreover, the company recently introduced the Multi-Providers feature to its online channels for travel agents, enabling seamless comparison and booking for complex journeys, such as London to Berlin, within a single platform. This feature encompasses booking, ticketing, payment, and after-sales services, streamlining the entire process for agents and passengers alike.

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Bender acknowledged that India has consistently been among Rail Europe’s leading markets, but it has now ascended to second place. He credited this achievement to India’s swift recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak compared to other nations. Rail Europe is committed to enhancing its presence in India by investing in local staff and travel brokers.

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Bender expressed optimism regarding India’s future potential, projecting a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of at least 20% in the coming years. Emphasizing that the European rail sector generates an annual revenue of 70 billion euros, with a significant portion of ticket sales occurring outside of Europe, Rail Europe is committed to maintaining its market dominance in non-European markets while leveraging the rising demand from countries like India.

Bender also emphasized on the initiatives undertaken by countries like Switzerland to streamline visa applications for Indian travelers. He highlighted that Switzerland, along with London, France, and Italy, continues to be among the most favored destinations for Indian travelers who prefer train travel.

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