See the Canadian Rockies by helicopter with Rocky Mountaineer. // © 2015 IStock
Feature image (above): Rocky Mountaineer has introduced new offerings with its 2016 brochure. // © 2015 Rocky Mountaineer
Turning 25 has not caused a slowdown for Rocky Mountaineer. With the new 2016 brochure, the company has introduced many changes tailored to clients and their travel agent partners. From introducing new food service customization options to creating entirely new routes, Rocky Mountaineer has continued to make guest happiness its main priority.
In an interview with TravelAge West, Leslie Peden, director of U.S. and Mexico sales for Rocky Mountaineers, discussed a few of the key changes in the 2016 brochure especially relevant to travel agents.
What are some changes from the 2015 brochure Rocky Mountaineer wants travel agents to know about?
With 2016, there’s an emphasis on what’s new. For example, for 2016, all classes of services will be offered under glass domes, such as GoldLeaf, our premiere product, and SilverLeaf service. RedLeaf service has been retired.
For SilverLeaf service, from a meal service point-of-view, guests are sent their meals in their seats and can choose the portion size they want. We’re also continuing to offer guests all-inclusive drinks.
We also are now using three Holland America Line ships for our cruise program.
Can you explain why RedLeaf Service has been retired?
RedLeaf service was our entry-level product. Our business was built around four key pillars: scenery, cuisine, service and the socialization aspect between the guests. RedLeaf didn’t have the same socialization aspect. Moving forward, we wanted to focus on more luxurious services such as GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf.
Guests travel with us for scenery, and this was a way to deliver what they wanted.
You’ve also added some new hotels to choose from?
We have the same feature Fairmont properties, but we’ve added some more unique ones as well. Guests are not necessarily looking for traditional heritage properties.
Has your operating season changed?
Yes, we will now have last departures on Oct. 15 instead of the first week of October. It’s a good time to see the wildlife and a popular time for guests.
And you added some U.S. product as well?
We expanded into the U.S. for the first time last year. It’s a very popular destination because we’ve allowed agents to increase sales — air access from Seattle is extremely favorable.
Can you explain the changes made to the Rainforest to Gold Rush route?
One of the things that came out of our user aptitude study was that guests were looking for more days on the train, ideally three to five. Guests on the route will start in Vancouver, overnight in Whistler and travel on to Quesnel. The route starts out as coastal, then they spend two days in the Rocky Mountains. A highlight of the Jasper route is Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Allowing guests to customize is something Rocky Mountaineer encourages. How can travel agents help customize their clients’ trips?
We have more than 47 different types of vacation packages. All of these can be customized. For example, the Canadian Rockies adventure includes a helicopter ride. For guests who are uncomfortable with helicopters, this can be removed. Basically, if it’s in the brochure, it can be customized. Agents can tailor their bookings exactly to their clients’ needs.
What are some ways travel agents can improve the way they work with Rocky Mountaineer?
One opportunity we have is our travel agent portal that agents can access at Agent.RockyMountaineer.com. There, they can see that 40 percent of our guests combine Alaskan cruises with tours.
We’ve taken the hassle away from agents by pairing them together. We also have marketing collateral, which agents can customize with their own logos. Agents don’t have to do anything but provide their information.
How has your 25th anniversary changed Rocky Mountaineer’s approach to customer outreach or working with agents or the company in general?
That milestone has only been achieved through the support of the travel agency community in the U.S. How we’ve changed over the years has been through the number of vacation packages offered. We still keep up with the trends and customer experiences guests are looking for.
The Rocky Mountaineer brand also has more name recognition. We’ve been advertising in national U.S. newspapers and have increased our U.S. sales team to 14 people.
Train vacation packages have become increasingly popular. I liken it to the cruise industry when it was cresting on the wave. We’re looking at identical customers to the cruise customers.
Lots of agents who only sold cruises before are now working with us because the prices of cruises have not come down, and it’s a way for agents to increase their margins.
Is there anything else agents should know about?
We’ve just launched our early booking bonus campaign. If guests book by Aug. 28, they will earn a $1,000 in extra value they can take advantage of and put toward extending their hotel nights or upgrading to a fully-inclusive meal plan.
When guests book early, they won’t run into the problem of later promotions being more generous, so there aren’t customer service issues. It’s a nice way for agents to upsell.
We’re also seeing a lot of agents working on behalf of groups. We have a department specifically for that. If travel agents are booking 16 or more guests, the 16th guest rides for free.