Canada on Rails

RMV offers more than a transportation option

By: Marty Wentzel

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RMV is offering a rail and cruise combination.
At the December 2007 World Travel Awards, in the category of Best Travel Experience By Train, the distinguished competition listed such international players as the Blue Train (South Africa), Palace on Wheels (India) and the Orient Express (Peru). For the third year in a row, top honors went to Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer Vacations (RMV), as voted by 167,000 travel professionals including more than 110,000 travel agents.

Fresh from its three-peat, RMV officials are anything but complacent. On the contrary, during a recent conversation with TravelAge West, they shared a wealth of information about their new products for this year.

In the words of Randy Powell, president of the Armstrong Group, which owns RMV: “If we want to ensure the continued success of our company, we need to look for ways to be innovative and build on the reputation of the Rocky Mountaineer brand.”

At its 1990 inception, RMV consisted of a two-day, all-daylight journey through Western Canada and the Canadian Rockies aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train. Today RMV encompasses three Rocky Mountaineer routes and one on the Whistler Mountaineer, making it the largest privately owned passenger rail service in North America. It owns Gray Line West motorcoach; operates two live shows and the Thompson Hotel in Kamloops, B.C.; and runs Rocky Blue Line Motor Tours in Victoria. Thanks to a partnership with Fairmont Hotels, it also features large blocks of quality rooms for clients to stay in between travels. Package components run from meal plans and rental cars to tours and activities.

As it freshens its offerings for 2008, RMV is rolling out a rail and cruise combination ranging from 12 to 16 nights, combining train excursions with passage aboard Holland America Line’s ms Ryndam. Also new this year is a 25-minute helicopter tour of the Columbia Icefields, available with several of the firm’s vacation packages. To sweeten the self-drive portion of its product line, RMV is adding a new amenity called the Gypsy Guide. Dubbed “a guided tour in your own vehicle” and operated through the car’s stereo system, it provides narrative, directions, facts and tips on things to see and do along the way.

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Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is
expanding their season this year.
As demand for the company’s product grows, RMV is starting this year’s season earlier and ending a few days later than last year, and its call center has extended its hours of operation. The company has acquired its 16th dome coach for its Gold Leaf class, the higher-end alternative providing clients with reserved seating in two-story, glass-domed coaches.

This spring, RMV will welcome its one millionth guest, a milestone that couldn’t have happened without travel agents, said RMV executive vice president James Terry. “We are doing our best to provide tourists, travelers and adventurers with a unique, quality travel experience,” said Terry. “Agents have played an important role in helping us tell the world about our product.”

For agents who want to make the most of the RMV momentum, the company provides Web-based training, free sales and marketing collateral, co-op advertising and the guidance of 11 U.S. sales representatives. Agents get competitive industry commission on bookings including air and they receive reduced rates when they experience the product themselves.

“The most common misconception among travel agents is that we only feature train travel, while in reality we offer so much more than that,” said RMV U.S. travel agency sales director Larisa Zenjin. “We provide one-stop shopping to travel agents booking trips to Western Canada. By calling us, travel agents can rest assured that their clients will truly have the trip of a lifetime.”