Luxury rail brings MICE glamour

LUXURY rail products are a great option for groups and incentives, allowing participants to embark on unique and incredible rail journeys in some of the world’s most iconic destinations, says Nicolette Harrop, assistant manager at World Travel.

“With an abundance of itineraries from which to choose, clients can experience the glamour, elegance and romance of luxury rail. Many of the luxury products offer short journeys or stays, so you can add them to an existing itinerary to make the experience just that much more special.”

Many of these high-end products offer limited space and can therefore be booked in full for a private journey, she says. “In such cases you can even include a personalised itinerary that incorporates a whisky tasting or golfing tour, for example.”

Many of the products certainly include bucket-list journeys, but not all are luxury products so more affordable options may exist on certain routes, she says. “All drinks and meals are normally fully inclusive and certain journeys may include excursions.”

Unless it is a very special and luxurious journey, train travel is not really suitable for MICE clients, believes Austria Connection owner, Inge Dobihal.

“You have to consider the additional costs of transfers to and from railway stations and hotels as opposed to having a direct bus transfer (door to door) between hotels.”

Thompsons Holidays’ John Ridler says it is difficult to secure meeting space on overseas trains, but locally The Blue Train is popular for MICE.

MICE programmes incorporating local luxury rail travel have always been a difficult sell to South African corporates, says Carole O’Connor from the Rovos Rail Groups & Incentives department. They are considered too expensive for meetings and events, which leaves them more appropriate for the incentive client, and even then it is still extremely specific.

Yet the newly launched Rovos Rail partnership with the five-star Palala Boutique Game Lodge and Spa in Limpopo is set to change this, she believes.

“Most of our MICE clients to date have been international because South African corporates don’t see the wow factor in hosting an incentive locally.”

For this reason, she says, Rovos Rail as an incentive option for South Africans has until now aimed at lower-tier incentives because the experience is local – and then it is an expensive lower-tier incentive. Generally SA corporates tend to opt for overseas or cruising programmes.

Since Palala is relatively new and offering more accessible rates, a three-night/four-day luxury rail, bush and spa experience – with a wow factor – is now within the means of SA corporates, she adds.