‘Indians returning to Switzerland’

Rhaetian Railway is happy that after being without any overseas customers from outside Europe for two years, Indians are now returning to Switzerland as bookings from India trickle in for its Glacier Express and the Bernina Express, says Sebastian Blaettler, Market Manager Asia-Pacific, Rhaetian Railway.

Hazel Jain

Sebastian Blaettler, Market Manager Asia-Pacific, Rhaetian Railway, was in India recently to meet key travel agents, tour operators, and DMCs from Mumbai and Delhi. He also participated in the Switzerland Travel
Experience B2B show organised by Switzerland Tourism in Goa. Speaking about the India market, he says, “We are happy that after two years being without any overseas customers from outside Europe, Indians are coming back and we are already seeing bookings trickling in. They are still in small numbers but at least bookings are on the way back.” Rhaetian Railway runs Switzerland’s two most famous scenic railway lines – the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express.

To book the product for their clients, Blaettler says that travel agents have three options. “The one I propose is to reach out to an agent who is already working with us. We are working closely with all the GSAs of Rail Europe and the Switzerland Specialists in India. However, agents can also access our B2C website. But for those who may not predominantly be selling Switzerland, the rail is still a rather complex product. For them, I would suggest reaching out to the experts in the market who already selling rail. Of course, to sell our product, they do not need to be Switzerland Specialists,” he explains.

A comfortable to experience

This product will appeal to everyone, feels Blaettler. “It’s for travellers who want to experience a country but they do not want to hike up. They want a comfortable experience and our product offers this. You get to witness alpine mountain landscapes while sitting comfortably in the train. We have also made some improvements recently. We have introduced a new historic train around tunnels and a toy train which goes to the base of one of the most iconic railway bridge. This again is suitable for small family groups with kids. We also have a railway museum in the region,” he informs.

Speaking about one of the key requirements for the India market, Blaettler adds, “We have full catering services on board the Glacier Express. On the Excellence Class, food is included in the ticket and vegetarian options are always available. I’m a vegetarian myself. In fact, we even have an Indian meal available in our normal classes. Generally in Switzerland also I would day travellers will get a variety of cuisines, including vegetarian and Indian food.”

Working with rail experts

While Rhaetian Railway does not have any special introductory rates for agents post Covid, Blaettler says, “We are always open to helping Switzerland Experts who want to push us pro-actively, who are rail experts and want to work on this connection between Switzerland and Italy and putting a train in their itinerary and who want to market train journeys as an experience. We are not really a public transport – we are an experience. And we are open for collaboration with the travel trade, so I am also asking agents to please reach out to us.”

Blaettler is very confident and enthusiastic about the Indian market. “The Vaccination Pass in Switzerland has been cancelled so we are very positive. Now finally we have positive signs again after the pandemic and that’s also why we are here in the market right now immediately after opening up. We want to talk to the trade, we want to encourage them to sell, we want to provide training and assistance to them. We are also represented in India by Kunal Kothari of KKR World. I feel India has tremendous potential for us,” he adds.



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