Time to embrace the digital age, says Rail Europe CEO

"Exciting" growth plans afoot

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Rail Europe CEO, Dau-Khoi Nguyen
Rail Europe CEO, Dau-Khoi Nguyen

Rail Europe‘s new Chief Executive Officer, Dau-Khoi Nguyen, is looking at ways to steer the distribution of European rail products into the digital age as part of his growth strategy.

In Australia last week on a whirlwind trip to Melbourne and Sydney, the Frenchman was introduced to Rail Europe’s local key travel agency networks, trade partners and media, where he outlined a number of ways the company is keen to expand its reach.

Nguyen took the CEO mantle in September last year at Rail Europe and was jointly appointed International Director of the newly created International Business Unity of e-voyageurs SNCF, the distribution arm of the French Railway Company. His background spans 20 years in the digital space, including roles with technology company Philips Consumer Lifestyle, during an era in which box TV sets moved to “sexy, high definition screens”; and seven years with a “funny US bookstore”, Amazon. Most recently, Nguyen was the Chief Digital Officer for IPH Group, now known as Rubix.

While Rail Europe’s product is sold globally, the Oceania region punches well above its weight, he said.

“Australia is a very, very important market for us. It’s our second [largest] market behind the United States.”

In the past 12 months, sales from this region have seen Australia surpass South Korea, which moved to third.

“We have some really exciting plans to grow even further, building on the great successes that we had, especially around something very important to us called the Great Train Journeys. We want to keep on bringing more services and continuously improve the quality of service to our customers, and especially our trade partners especially.”

Questioned about those “exciting plans” for the future, Nguyen told LATTE that, from a long-term perspective, the company believes there are further opportunities in technology advancements and transactions beyond the rail product.

“We think there is much more to the company and its customers, especially around pre and post. Mobility is an area which requires a lot of technology developments. So directionally, we believe we can bring many more services and innovation to our customers using mobility as an additional service, brought to customers beyond just the transactional journey.”

Nguyen told LATTE he expects Rail Europe’s Great Train Journeys program has the legs to be expanded to other “parts of the world. All indicators say international tourist numbers will continue to rise over the next 10 years, so we need to tap into that growth.”

“In the luxury space, there is an ongoing search for a valuable experience, and we see that. Great Train Journeys is growing solidly and results in this part are very good, and we will continue to expand on that with dedicated people and quality of service,” Nguyen said.

Another space for growth is through new product offers to customers, on top of Rail Europe’s well-established core program.

“Experientially speaking, that’s complementary museum tours and gastronomy experiences. For example, and speaking about my home country, France, we like our visitors to discover all the various facets of France and not only the Eiffel Tower, and then move on. It’s more about gastronomy, the architecture and the ski side. All this can be facilitated as an additional service.”

Nguyen also highlighted opportunities in Southeast Asia “because those countries are growing … and we should be there leading the charge.”

Expanding on the potential of Great Train Journeys be rolled out to other international markets, Rail Europe’s Commercial Director for Australia and New Zealand, Rich Leonard, said those new markets would require dedicated specialists, capable of managing the booking processes.

On a product front, Leonard added that Rail Europe has forged new partnerships in Latin America in recent years, now working with Belmond in Peru and the Andean Explorer and Tren Ecuador and its Tren Crucero, which he said are “amazing products”.

He added that Rail Europe’s goal was to become a one-stop-shop for travel agents.

“If a client is looking for something a bit left-of-field involving rail, they’ll know where to go to book it.”

Leonard also suggested that groups are “another significant opportunity” for Rail Europe. “We already made some progress in that space last year and will continue to do so.”

Lead image: Rail Europe CEO Dau-Khoi Nguyen with Rail Europe Commercial Director – ANZ, Rich Leonard

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