Asia's tourists catching the railway buzz

While China is currently spending untold billions on creating a fast-train network that will one day link all the country's major cities, it appears that the appetite for train travel has spread among the region's tourists - no matter where it is they want to travel.

China is this year alone spending 745.5 billion yuan (81 billion euros) on expanding its train network, which it hopes will cover 13,000 kilometers by 2012.

The country is currently running a one-month test of the Beijing-Shanghai leg of the network, which the government claims will cut travel between the two major cities by five hours.

And already the increase in rail options is being felt throughout the transport industry in China, with two of the country's airlines - China Southern Airlines and Lucky Air - cutting flights between the cities of Wuhan and Nanjing after the recent introduction of bullet trains linking the cities offered faster and cheaper options for locals and tourists alike.

A recent survey on China's Sina.com - the country's leading news portal - found that 66 percent of respondents claimed they would rather catch a high-speed train than an airplane.

And that's the sort of news that has resulted in Rail Europe deciding to this week open its first flagship store in Asia.

Rail Europe ( http://www.raileurope.com) - which markets itself as the "world leader in European Rail distribution"- claimed year-on-year growth of 34 percent in 2010 (for 137 million euros) as demand for train travel in that region developed.

And it says demand from Asian tourists continues to be most impressive.

"Bookings in Hong Kong were up by 48 percent from January to April this year, with a 141 percent increase in April alone," according to Philippe Kirsanow, Rail Europe's sales director for Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

He said in a statement the Hong Kong store would help the company expand through mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam - all markets Rail Europe says are increasingly turning to train travel due to increased services and competitive ticket prices.

 

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