Sudipta Dev – Vancouver
In May 2014, VIA Rail Canada will introduce a new deluxe product, which according to Ryan Robutka, senior manager, sales and marketing – Americas, VIA Rail will be a good fit for the Indian market. “India is an emerging market for us. We have representation in India now and that helps us in working with tour operators, training and press outreach. The numbers from India are small but growing. It is a market that we have identified is important for us and we are looking to build the momentum,” said Robutka, adding that one of the things that VIA Rail is excited about in the Indian market is the deluxe product. Initially the route for this product will be from Vancouver to Jasper, in 2015 there are plans to extend the same from Vancouver to Toronto.
“The cabins will be larger and more contemporary. Though the train will be the same there will be larger separate new cars. There will be individual washrooms with shower, flat screen televisions with video on demand, and of course concierge service,” stated Robutka. In the weeks leading up to that trip, the concierge will contact the travellers and ask if they need anything prior to getting on the train and also help them with sightseeing tours, etc. Alcohol would be included in the trip and there would be wine tasting and cheese tasting. The level of service will be personalised.
There are other trains catering to the niche travellers. For example, the train that goes to Churchill and Manitoba is of interest to adventure travellers. “People go to Churchill to see polar bears, to swim with beluga whales and look at the Northern Lights. Another train goes through northern British Columbia, Prince Rupert to Jasper and Alberta, which is for nature lovers – they do whale watching, grizzly bear tours, fishing tours and then go to Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies,” informed Robutka.
VIA Rail Canada was created by two different railway companies that operate freight lines in Canada. In the late seventies when airline travel was becoming more popular they shed their passenger network and the federal government took over the operations. Since then VIA Rail Canada has grown into a company that specialises in two types of travel – in eastern Canada people rely on train network to travel between Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto as an alternate to flying. There is economy and business class, and is much cheaper than the airlines. The longer haul trains go from Toronto to Vancouver and takes four nights and three days to go across five provinces. There are two classes of service – economy and sleeper plus class (first class service). “We would say that our first class product is a premium product, which has a casual Canadian twist to it. It is not pretentious, but welcoming,” concluded Robutka.