Rail tourism in Europe covers journeys made by train for the purpose of tourism. These may be for leisure/holiday, business, or to visit friends and relatives (VFR). What is excluded is regular travel between two places, typically persons commuting between home and their place of work.
There is no specific measurement of travellers on the European rail network by purpose of visit. However, by identifying those services that are predominantly, or exclusively used by tourists, it is possible to isolate and analyse the sector. Rail tourism in Europe is largely driven by three distinct types of travel:
Journeys where the train itself is the key attraction, rather than the place the journey ends. This report calls these ‘Tourist trains and journeys’, as they are almost exclusively used by tourists. These journeys can be considered as attractions rather than transport. Trips are usually booked as packages through specialist tour operators or travel agents.
Journeys where the destination is the main reason for travel. These tourists are less interested in the rail experience itself. This report calls these ‘International train journeys’. These journeys are used by tourists and commuters but predominantly (usually at least one half of all passengers) by tourists. Consequently, they are an important part of rail tourism in Europe, and importantly compete with other modes of transport – increasingly with air routes. The high-speed rail routes that are expanding across Europe are driving this form of rail tourism, although the rail-pass market that tends to use the slower trains is also important.
Journeys where the tourist can transport their car with them. These Motorail services tend to be expensive and therefore, unlike the two types of travel above, appear to be in decline. However, they are almost exclusively used by tourists, and are therefore included in this report.