Philip Martin talks to Pablo Bernhard, CEO of Lufthansa City Centre Sao Paulo.
Brazil is one of the fast growing BRIC countries which we are all keeping an eye on, and we could ask ourselves, what are the main international railways that are being sold by a Brazilian travel agency? Well, we got the chance to find out when Pablo Bernhard kindly took time out to give us some insights into rail travel and the Brazilian rail market.
Spain & Italy top rail destinations
For Pablo Europe is the most important continent for international sales, with Spain and Italy as the top destinations for rail travel. They are gateways for his customers, and markets that are growing in terms of demand.
Many Brazilians want to travel in luxury
Something not often publicised is the luxury rail travel market: most Europeans consider point to point rail travel routes only. Pablo explained that about three years ago they started selling luxury rail travel and it’s turned out to be a very profitable product for them. When compared to rail passes and tickets the commission is much more interesting, and it was also was a surprise to him that there is a market for these type of trains.
The Trans Siberian Express is a big favourite for Brazilians. It’s a surprise to Pablo that it is more popular than the Orient Express - why? Well maybe because the famous Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho wrote a book about the Trans Siberian and has brought an emotional aspect to the journey creating a desire to try out this trip. It's also the longest railway line in the world at 9,289 KMs stretching from Moscow to the Sea of Japan - incredible!
So what about rail as a mode of transport in Brazil?
Is it comparable with other continents such as Europe? Pablo explained that there is no real rail culture in Brazil; there are some tourist trains but the routes are just 90km in length. There are some projects underway such as the high speed link between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, a fantastic project with 400km of track being built. However it's been under construction for nearly 11 years and there is a need for government intervention to complete it and fulfil the dream of connecting 28 million people by rail transport.
Is rail a major transport choice of Brazilians?
The bus network in Brazil is second to none; the buses are high quality and the network is probably the best in the world. Buses present huge competition to all other forms of transport, including rail. In the luxury bus segment Brazil manufactures its own buses and has such a good reputation that they export successfully too. Barraqueiro one of the large transport companies is one of the investors in the consortium that purchased 65% of the TAP Airline.
Brazil continues to grow in the transport sector and work on creating opportunities to create larger international door to door networks. This can only fuel further growth and development and thus match all the hype associated with being one of the BRIC countries.