Skip to main content

For millennia, rail has shuttled riders across this vast nation. From glitzy city hubs and oceanside views to rolling hills and snowcapped mountaintops, the versatile nature of train travel knows no parallel. Sometimes fast and convenient, sometimes slow and scenic, travelers choose their own adventure as they kick back, relax and enjoy the ride.

And, with so many great train companies based in the U.S., embracing this unique form of travel is easier than ever. Want to learn more? We interviewed three amazing brands to help advisors get familiar with train travel opportunities in their own “backyard.”

 

Alaska Railroad

Spanning from Seward in the Southcentral region to Fairbanks in the Interior, the Alaska Railroad stretches an impressive 470 miles. And as travelers traverse the state’s varied landscapes with its mountainous terrain and daring gorges to the North and backcountry wilderness and icy wonders to the South, they might find they disembark changed by the wonder of this special place. 

“I think people forget how big Alaska is,” said Meghan Clemens, manager of marketing and communications for the Alaska Railroad. “Both Seward and Fairbanks are well worth visiting on an Alaska trip, but they’re almost 500 miles apart.”

Glass-dome railcars aboard Alaska Railroad. (Photo by Glenn Aronwits courtesy of Alaska Railroad)

What Sets the Alaska Railroad Apart? 

While the state’s amazing scenery is a selling point in and of itself, the Alaska Railroad is also known for its swanky bells and whistles in the form of glass-dome railcars, onboard dining, bar service and guided commentary. And according to Clemens, the fun doesn’t stop there: “We partner with local hotels and tour operators in every destination we serve to offer our passengers the ability to create custom rail travel packages.”

What Advisors Need to Know

The Alaska Railroad offers travel pros incredible perks throughout the year. To start earning commission and complimentary or discounted travel, advisors can visit the “Travel Trade” section of the railroad’s website where they can register to become an “Alaska Railroad Travel Expert.” As for FAMs, Clemens shared Alaska Railroad offers rail-only FAM opportunities — depending on availability — to advisors who have never been aboard.

Featured Route

“I love the Glacier Discovery Train for the unique access it provides to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, a remote part of the Chugach National Forest that is only accessible via the Alaska Railroad,” said Clemens. “From the Whistle Stop, it’s an easy mile walk on a trail maintained by the Forest Service out to the edge of Spencer Lake where you’re rewarded with views of Spencer Glacier cascading down between the mountains … And from this remote wilderness, it’s still possible to be back in Anchorage in time for dinner.”

 

Brightline

Established in 2018, Brightline, Florida’s high-speed passenger train, helps visitors and locals explore The Sunshine State in comfort and style. With so many ways to travel, we asked Gabriel Martinez, vice president of distribution and channel sales at Brightline, why vacationers should tour Florida by rail, and he said it comes down to four things: 1) The railway’s hospitality-first experience, 2) Ease of connectivity between popular destinations, 3) Sustainability and 4)  The increased ability for travelers to extend their visit and explore multiple points of interest. 

An exterior shot of one of Brightline's trains. (Photo courtesy of Brightline)

What Sets Brightline Apart?

With charging ports at every seat, free Wi-Fi for everyone and food and beverage stations on deck, Brightline was designed to cater to the modern traveler. Martinez noted the trains are highly customized, and the company hopes to set a new standard for how people travel between major city pairs in the States. “We set out with a vision to offer a hotel-quality customer experience that makes train travel a real alternative to driving on congested highways in the U.S. and connecting the traveler to the destination in a way unlike ever before in Florida,” said Martinez.  

What Advisors Need to Know

Earlier this year, Brightline established its relationship with the advisor community with the launch of commissionable fares. “We encourage advisors to start working with our products immediately, get familiar with the booking process and the service,” said Martinez. “We are certain once the route to Orlando opens up, advisors are going to get flooded with opportunities to book it.” So, how can travel pros get started? Martinez said Brightline offers FAMs and remote training opportunities to advisors looking to “come aboard.”

Featured Route

“I am very much looking forward to the Orlando route, but I love crossing the New River,” said Martinez. “(I’m) not sure what it is, but seeing the yellow Water Taxis, looking towards the Stranahan House, the Riverside Hotel and Las Olas. It is such a beautiful part of South Florida. It’s iconic, unique and inviting. I love it.”

 

Rocky Mountaineer

Featuring routes in the U.S. and Canada, an adventure aboard Rocky Mountaineer, with its glass-dome coaches, outdoor viewing areas, comfortable seating and attentive service, reminds travelers that the journey is as important as the destination. “Train travel has long been seen as a romantic mode of travel where guests can embrace the journey and create meaningful moments,” said Violet Thumlert, vice president of global sales for Rocky Mountaineer. “Rocky Mountaineer, in particular, travels to places best viewed by train: beside rushing rivers, through river canyons and along lakesides.”

Exterior of Rocky Mountaineer train near Ruby Canyon along the Rockies to the Red Rocks route. (Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer)

What Sets Rocky Mountaineer Apart?

“Our onboard experience is warm, inviting, comfortable and refined,” said Thumlert. And a huge part of what makes the railroad so special is its Hosts. “They narrate the journey with details about the history, people and communities that shape the regions we travel through,” said Thumlert. The railway is also known for its food. “Meals are prepared using locally sourced products, and the menus are inspired by regional flavors,” said Thumlert. “This unique combination of incredible scenery, engaging storytelling, delicious cuisine and top-notch service is something Rocky Mountaineer has perfected over the past 33 years.” 

What Advisors Need to Know

“Travel advisors are valued partners who bring guests to Rocky Mountaineer, and we have an incredible team that works with them,” said Thumlert. Want to learn more? Advisors can complete TRACKS, the company’s online training program to become a Rocky Mountaineer Specialist in exchange for exclusive perks. Travel pros can also take advantage of Rocky Mountaineer’s “learning journeys,” tailored packages designed for select advisors who sell the railroad’s products. 

Featured Route

“Each route has unique characteristics and spectacular scenery best enjoyed from the comfort of our train,” said Thumlert. “I’m drawn to First Passage to the West, which operates between Vancouver and Banff, as it runs through my favorite mountain ranges, along the historic Canadian Pacific rail line and through the incredible spiral tunnels. Seeing the scenery and the mountains through Rocky Mountaineer’s glass-dome windows is awe-inspiring. I have driven through those mountain ranges over the past 13 years, but Rocky Mountaineer is a completely different, luxurious experience.” 

 

Expert Advice for Getting Started With Rail

Does all this info have your wheels turning? We talked with Rachel Hardy, vice president of sales and marketing for The Society of International Railway Travelers, about what it's like to specialize in rail and the steps advisors can take to get started. “I love slow travel of all kinds, and train travel falls into that category perfectly,” said Hardy. “Having such a specific niche allows me and our staff to know the product inside and out ... Having a very specific niche gives you authority and confidence.”

When asked if she encounters any hurdles as an advisor who specializes in rail, Hardy said the obstacles she faces will be familiar to any advisor. “Suppliers get things wrong. Rail schedules change at the last minute. Travelers have their flights delayed or canceled,” said Hardy. “We overcome these and other obstacles by preparing our travelers as best as we can to expect the unexpected — and to avoid Heathrow and Amsterdam if at all possible!”

Rachel Hardy (right) and a friend pose next to the Orient Express. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Hardy)

In addition to being ready for anything, Hardy noted being familiar with your suppliers is essential. “We have also created strict boundaries for ourselves in terms of what we will sell,” she said. “If we are not comfortable with a product, we will not sell it — period. Many problems can be diminished by working with only your most trusted supplier partners.”

So, how can advisors start booking more train travel domestically and across the pond? While Hardy acknowledges luxury rail isn’t the easiest world to break into, there are resources that can help. “Unless you really want to specialize in trains, you are far better off involving a rail-specific agency like The Society of International Railway Travelers to help you book your clients’ travel,” she said. We will save you time and money in the long run.”

That being said, advisors shouldn’t be discouraged from going for it if they are passionate about the product. “If you do think you want to take the plunge, get yourself on a train familiarization trip,” said Hardy. “Nothing will help answer your clients’ questions better than firsthand experience.”

Originally appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of The Compass magazine


About the Author

Author image

Senior Editor for VAX VacationAccess and world explorer, Jenna Buege loves writing about all things travel. When she’s not busy creating content, she spends her time exploring the great outdoors, cuddling with her two black cats and researching her next big (sometimes strange) adventure. 


comments

1000 characters remaining
Comment as:

The Compass Search

Find articles that you might be interested in reading