Rail Europe thanks its many Korean riders

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Rail Europe thanks its many Korean riders

Korea has grown into a major revenue source for Rail Europe, a French-Swiss rail ticket distributor.

According to the company, sales of European high-speed rail tickets in Korea doubled last year from 2010.

In addition, Korea is now a larger market than Japan for railway ticket sales, and the second-largest in the world after Australia.

“Young Korean customers are particularly an important target for us because they buy a lot of Eurail passes,” Florence Pasquier, commercial director of Rail Europe headquarters, told the Korea JoongAng Daily on a recent visit.

Pasquier was accompanied by Jean-Christian Dubor, head of Marketing of SNCF, a French state-owned railway system.

Pasquier and Dubor were in Seoul to show their appreciation to Korean tourism agencies for helping boost Eurorail ticket sales. They held a dinner Wednesday at the Westin Chosun Hotel in Jung District, central Seoul.

Pasquier was optimistic that Rail Europe would continue to enjoy growth in the Korean market.

“When the young customers get older and become senior citizens, they will remember the experience that they had traveling Europe by train and will return to relive the experience,” Pasquier said.

“Japan today is different since younger people don’t seem to travel, especially in recent years since their economy has been struggling.”

Rail Europe, a joint venture by France’s national railway SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways, first opened its Korean office in 2005. That branch saw total sales of 36.9 billion won ($32.6 million) last year, including high-speed and regular trains, a 23 percent hike from the year before.

Pasquier expects this year to be even better. Sales in February already were up 15 percent compared to a year earlier.

Rail Europe’s international sales totaled 258 billion won last year and about 2.2 million travelers purchased the ticket.

Regarding the Korean high-speed train KTX, whose initial technology was based on TGV, the French officials said it is too early to fully assess.

“It’s only been eight years since KTX was started, so Korea still needs to work further to develop its business models.”

For starters, Pasquier suggested that the Korea Railroad Corporation should ensure easy access to KTX stations.

“It is important to figure out ways of establishing infrastructure that helps travelers to conveniently hop on high-speed trains,” she said.

They also noted the importance of connecting railway routes to airports so incoming passengers don’t have to go to Seoul to get a rail connection to another city.

Dubor emphasized the important of planning before starting new rail routes. That was one of the reasons SNCF was able to grow annually, he said.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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