Revealing the move to the travel trade today, YLG said the Sydney-based operation was a reflection of increasing demand by Aussies for “independent, customised train travel through North America”.
YLG offers a portfolio of travel experiences to the most sought-after destinations throughout the world, with its brands including Amtrak Vacations, Yankee Holidays and Railbookers, with spin-offs including VIA Rail Vacations by Railbookers and Eurostar Vacations by Railbookers. Amtrak serves over 31 million passengers a year and operates to 46 of the 48 continuous US states and into Canada.
“Today’s travellers want a more immersive travel experience; one size no longer fits all. They want the opportunity to find out what life is like onboard the train, explore new destinations and enjoy sightseeing beyond simply the top tourist attractions. You want to come home with stories of your experiences to share with friends and family,” Yankee Leisure Group’s President Frank Marini said in a press release.
“We are excited about our new office in Sydney and the opportunity to assist Australian Travel agents and travellers with booking the train holiday of a lifetime to the USA and Canada.”
Marini told LATTE that Amtrak Vacations’ local outpost will be run by a team of seven, focused on B2B and B2C relationships, with all staff having previous industry experience in Australia.
Popular itineraries from this region include the Great American, Grand National Parks with Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon and California Dreamin’.
“We have a number of top itineraries we see the Australian market purchasing, but everything and anything can be customised to fit the travellers’ needs,” he explained.
Amtrak offers a First Class seating product on its Acela Express product which operates in the US Northeast Corridor, between Boston and Washington DC. In First Class, passengers enjoy premium amenities, complimentary onboard food and beverage services and receive privileged access to Club Acela Lounges in Boston South Station, New York Penn Station, Philadelphia 30th Street Station and Washington, DC Union Station.
The benefit for passengers taking a train over air services include the convenience of city-centre start and ending points, as is the case on the New York to Boston Amtrak service. “The 3.5-hour-journey-time New York Penn Station to South Station Boston eliminates the need to drive to an airport, check-in formalities, waiting for a flight to board, fly, and luggage collection at the other end,” Marini said.
Yankee Leisure Group’s boss told LATTE the business acquired Railbookers 2.5 years ago, “as there were customers on the YLG-Amtrak Vacations brand. During that time we brought in professional management and our reservation/operating system, and have re-launched here in Australia with a new local office under YLG brands.”
Marini said the company has witnessed “unprecedented growth” from Australia, telling LATTE that sales have been rising 20% year-on-year since 2012, and are up 30% already in 2018.
“The demand for rail travel continues, as rail travel can be anything an agent or customer wants it to be. From city-to-city service and sightseeing, to pre/post cruise itineraries, a true overnight rail experience offers breathtaking sightseeing along the way … our growth comes from the fact that we appeal to all customers, and the journey begins when you get on board.”
Agents can also have confidence selling Amtrak Vacations, with the US-based company now a member of the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) and AFTA. It also has arrangements in place with a number of preferred travel consortia here and is “looking to incorporate more,” Marini said.
The head of the Australian arm of Amtrak Vacations is expected to be announced in coming weeks.
To kick off this exciting launch, Amtrak Vacations is offering special discounts on sleeping accommodation options including $300 off per couple for Roomette upgrades* and $400 off per couple for Bedroom upgrades* on any 2019 travels during its early-bird sale, valid for bookings to 31 October 2018. The Roomette category offers shared bathroom facilities, and Bedroom category offers in-room bathroom facilities. Both categories include all meals for the duration on board the train.
Visit www.amtrackvacations.com.au or www.railbookers.com.au for rail holiday ideas and options and phone 1300 650 257 for rail holiday bookings.