train business traveler

How the train can win back the business traveler

Business travel, in one form or another, has existed since the emergence of commerce, i.e. since the beginning of time. The business trip can be divided into two categories: individual business travel, which includes regular travel necessary to perform work-related tasks, and business tourism, which includes a variety of business meetings and events such as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

Travel facilities did not appear immediately after the war. For example, in 1957 the railroads introduced the Trans-Europ-Express (TEE) concept, a network of first-class express trains with a surcharge. At that time, many lines were not yet electrified and traveling abroad was still a habit reserved for a certain elite and business executives. The TEE was so comfortable as to offer a secretarial service on board the trains and, later, the possibility of making telephone calls.

If businessmen wanted to go further, they had to take an overnight train and book a compartment for themselves, which meant paying for a first class ticket with a sleeping car supplement called "Single".

In the 1960s, with the advent of many flights, business travel became more common throughout Europe. From then on, many businessmen could make a round trip from Madrid to Barcelona, Paris or London in one day, making the train increasingly obsolete.

Today, people fly in for two hours of meetings or a half-day seminar. This has allowed companies to have decentralized locations depending on their structure.

As a result, trains have increasingly lost this demanding clientele, which had the advantage of bringing in comfortable revenues to the railroads. The democratization of travel to a wider public led to a weakening of the use of the TEE and a rethinking of the model. TEE disappeared in 1987, thirty years after its birth. What is left for the entrepreneurs?

The answer was high-speed trains, and also copying the airline model by introducing reservations and catering. Thus the railroads were able to regain a once lost clientele, but at the cost of billions in investment. For these high-speed lines, despite their similarities to a railroad, differ greatly in certain technical aspects, especially a greater number of engineering structures and tunnels.

But as soon as they arrived, high-speed trains were already facing two major changes:

  • Starting in the 2000s, aviation found a new low-cost business model that put prices under pressure.
  • This new business model attracted a different business audience, which is no longer the TEE elite. It is the managers of companies and executives who no longer intend to pay astronomical sums to travel.

That's why, despite the rise of videoconferencing, the pace of travel has never been so intense, especially in the business travel segment, which used to be the bread and butter of aviation. Rail then had to go back to offering advantages that aviation could not: fast access to trains without multiple security gates, being able to arrive without as much lead time as at airports, and, above all, wifi, which at first was somewhat difficult, but over the years has improved to the point of turning travel time into work time... for those who wanted it.

The travel time considered "acceptable" by business customers has gradually increased to four hours, according to some surveys. At the same time, aviation's market share on routes such as Paris-Marseille, Madrid-Barcelona, Milan-Rome and even Berlin-Munich declined considerably.

The Covid-19 crisis and the green wave of sustainability and environmentalism driven by Europe have recently called into question not only the aviation model, but above all this unbridled consumption of routes in Europe. This crisis has led this time to a sharp increase in teleworking and videoconferencing. In June 2020, train traffic was half, although it was gradually recovering.

sleeping car

The night train solution?

An important market in the business world is the hospitality industry. When a conference or seminar takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., flying is often not an option, especially when these events are held in small cities with poor transport connections. An overnight stay in a hotel is then unavoidable for many participants.

However, there is a solution that could meet certain time requirements: the night train. In fact, the night is still a night for everyone. For 8 hours you sleep and travel 600 or 1,200 kilometers. The duration of the trip is not important here, as the train becomes your hotel. The goal is to arrive at your destination around 7:30 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. conference. At the end of the day, you return to your "rolling hotel" in the evening to go home the next day. The advantage: two nights less hotel accommodation at your company's expense.

But beware: to achieve maximum quality, more night trains than the current ones are needed. All of them must have a sleeping car with private cabin and wifi. Fares must be flexible up to the last minute. Service on board must be impeccable. Business customers should not stand outside on a platform, but sit comfortably in a station lounge while waiting for the evening train. This is the only way to attract business customers to the railroad.

Finally, two segments can be added for business travel:

  • the high speed train for distances of 300 to 500 kilometers
  • the night train for longer distances.

With this network, we can be sure to serve almost all major cities in Europe, thus avoiding costly air travel.

Manage all your trains for business travel with a single click

Vyootrip is a travel management platform for companies that allows you to book and manage trains for your company and all your employees, providing autonomy, control and cost optimization. You can also book planes, hotels, and other services necessary for your trip. With full assistance for you and your company at all times.

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