As COVID-19 vaccination efforts ramp up in Europe, tourism officials at the EU are seeing a light at the end of a dark tunnel in the way it was intended: from a train.
Rail travel is a classic, convenient and exciting way to see Europe, which is home to one of the most well-coordinated (and wonderfully scenic) railway networks in the world.
Travel by train is also one of the healthiest, safest and most sustainable ways to explore European countries – so much so the European Union declared 2021 the “European Year of Rail” (EYR).
As part of this year, ETC and Eurail launched an exciting joint-award competition for best rail tourism campaigns to promote rail travel as a clean, healthy form of transport across Europe.
“The 2021 European Year of Rail is a unique chance to put trail travel back in the limelight,” says ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander. “Train travel connects Europeans and allows our foreign guests to get off-the-beaten track and to know the real face of Europe.”
“ETC is delighted to be promoting train travel as a safe and sustainable means of transport to boost tourism recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19.”
Railways connect people
It’s no secret that railways help connect people.
In Europe alone, there’s 201,000 km of railway lines in use, with locomotives transporting thousands of goods, commuters and visitors via the Trans-European Transport network (TEN-T), in and out of countries, on a daily basis.
From the Glacier Express in Switzerland to the Rhine Valley Line in Germany, Europe’s vast rail network offers some of the most diverse and authentic experiences that only a train can provide.
Whether it is Rome to Florence, Madrid to Barcelona or Amsterdam to Brussels, Europe is best seen from the window of a train!
Train stations, unlike airports, are typically located in the middle of towns and cities, making them convenient starting points for a European adventure.
And, also unlike airports, train stations are less likely to have lengthy check-in procedures – all you have to do is buy a ticket (most companies, these days, sell e-tickets that you can download directly to your phone), show up a few minutes before your departure time and off you go.
Trains can also be wonderful places to relax, especially if you’ve spent a full day connecting with nature in the mountains or learning about local customs in a small European village.
They are great places to catch up on some shut-eye too (if you’re still adjusting to the time zone!)
Travel advisors who book European holidays for their clients can rest assured that their train-travelling customers will be in the hands of one of the safest and most reliable means of transportation.
Trains in Europe have an impeccable safety rating, recording the lowest incidences of fatal accidents, and can take the stress out of land travel with spacious seating, multi-use passes and user-friendly connections.
A green way to travel
Rail can also be one of the most green and sustainable ways to see Europe given the eco-friendly features that come with modern trains today.
European rail is mostly electrified and trains emit less CO2 than equivalent travel by road or air.
In fact, rail accounts for only 0.4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from EU transport, while all EU transport accounts for 25 per cent of the EU’s total emissions.
It is for this reason the ETC is encouraging European travel operators to promote rail as a safe, clean and healthy form of transport across the EU in an effort to meet the EU’s Green Deal goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.
As more travellers become conscious of their their CO2 footprint, a destination’s commitment to “going green” plays an important role in planning a post-pandemic recovery.
Trains control crowds
But perhaps one of the most logical benefits of rail travel (especially in today’s world of personal space and social distancing) is that trains improve the management of tourist flows across Europe, reducing crowds in popular hotspots while also supporting rural and remote regions.
The pandemic has rekindled society’s appreciation for the great outdoors and trains, though fast-moving, can satisfy a client’s desire for “slow adventure” by transporting them to off-road regions full of nature and local traditions.
The pandemic may have brought tourism to a standstill, but travel by train is a viable way to get curious travellers moving again, creating space to engage with communities and discover a common European identity along every track.
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