Rail-tour operator offers view of Rockies in luxury

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Rocky Mountaineer Railtours offers discounts on fam trips

VANCOUVER -- Rocky Mountaineer Railtours pays 10% commission on all products, including air.

The company works with consortia and offers special promotions for agency groups based on the specific contract. Commissions range from 13% to 15%. Air is always 10%.

RMR offers agents and a companion two-day RedLeaf service at a 60% discount.

The two-day GoldLeaf service and associated package tours are discounted for agents at 20%. Agent and companion receive a 50% discount on GoldLeaf service if they book at least 45 days prior to departure.

Larisa Zenjin, director, USA travel agency sales, said 50% of RMRs FIT North American bookings are made by travel agents. The company offers in-house training and marketing support through videos, collateral materials and co-op funding.

For more information, call (604) 606-7270 or e-mail [email protected]. -- K.S.

VANCOUVER -- It was a November morning in 1885, in Craigellachie, British Columbia, when Donald Smith took a sledgehammer and pounded his way into Canadian history, driving in the final spike that completed that nations first transcontinental railroad.

A bit more than 100 years after the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway, tourism and rail-travel visionary Peter Armstrong created a travel product promoting an all-daylight tour service along the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Lines through Canadas west and the Rocky Mountains.

He called it Rocky Mountaineer Railtours (RMR).

Today, RMR is marketed aggressively through a worldwide network of sales agents in 18 countries, offering approximately 60 packages that range from two to 17 days and cover virtually all of western Canada.

Although rail travel is at the heart of its business, the tour operator continues to evolve its travel product to include city tours, sightseeing, rail/drive packages, motorcoaches and winter rail holidays.

RMR also makes hotel accommodations for clients, often at a discount, and can book air, creating an efficient, complete product.

Headquartered in Vancouver, Rocky Mountaineer is the largest private passenger-rail operator in North America.

Its one-night, two-day journey between Vancouver and Banff/ Calgary through the Canadian Rockies has two classes of service: GoldLeaf and RedLeaf.

Robert van Bloemendaal of Carlson Wagonlit Travel in Garland, Texas, has traveled in RedLeaf and has booked clients in that class of service. He said it is an ideal choice for train buffs, families and clients on a modest budget.

GoldLeaf is considered a luxury service that clients will pay nearly 50% more for.

The eastbound departure is at 7:30 a.m., and the first seating for breakfast begins almost immediately.

RedLeaf service passengers are served meals at their seats.

GoldLeaf meals and service are an unqualified first-class event. GoldLeaf guests are called to the dining room below, where starched linens cover tables topped with fresh flowers.

Although the line reports that 40% of RMR passengers are from top U.S. markets such as California, Florida and Texas, there were only a few Americans on our trip.

At dusk, the train pulled into Kamloops for the night. Kamloops accommodations are not deluxe, although GoldLeaf passengers get the better hotels, one of which is the 67-room Plaza Hotel done up in a sort of bygone decor.

At 6:30 the next morning, we were back on board.

We rounded a curve and there they were: the towering, jagged peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

We left the range behind us and moved across flattening plains leading to Calgary.

Some passengers got off in Banff and traveled on their own or opted for an RMR extension to Lake Louise and other attractions.

The rest went on to Calgary, where GoldLeaf passengers had their luggage transferred directly to their hotel -- in our case, the Calgary Marriott.

The 384-room, downtown hotel is ideally positioned to explore the city.

Across from the train terminal, the last stop for the Rocky Mountaineer, the hotel bustles with activity and offers several Western-themed packages, such as the Do West! Family Weekend and the Calgary Urban Adventure Package.

Trains depart from Vancouver to Banff, Calgary or Jasper and from Jasper, Banff or Calgary to Vancouver on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from mid-April through mid-October.

The basic two-day GoldLeaf service (Vancouver to Calgary; Calgary to Vancouver), depending on dates, costs between $909 and $1,146, double.

It includes the rail trip, two breakfasts, two lunches, one dinner, one nights accommodation, rail transfers in Kamloops and luggage delivery to the hotel room.

The two-day RedLeaf service (Vancouver to Calgary; Calgary to Vancouver) costs between $458 and $588, double.

It includes the features of the GoldLeaf service, without the luggage delivery in Kamloops. Luggage is checked through to the final destination.

For more information, call (800) 665 7245, or visit www.rockymountaineer.com.

Kaleel Sakakeeny covers the family travel market for TravelWeekly.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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