These journeys through Switzerland, Occitanie and Vienna show the excitement and freedom of travelling Europe by train.
What could be more enticing than a winding train journey through the Swiss mountains, sitting opposite tennis star Roger Federer and comedian Trevor Noah?
Not much, according to the jury of the 2023 Rail Tourism Awards. It has just handed Switzerland Tourism the top prize for its promotional film featuring the two celebs on a serendipitous trip through the country.
Run by the European Travel Commission (ETC) and Eurail, the awards celebrate marketing campaigns which show the thrill, freedom and sustainability of travelling the continent by train.
“More and more guests want to travel sustainably,” said Austria’s State Secretary for Tourism, Susanne Kraus-Winkler, at the ceremony in Vienna on Monday.
“A well-developed and managed public transport network is key for our guests to move freely to and in their chosen destination.”
She heralded The Rail Tourism Awards as “the best platform to promote existing mobility offers and their advantages.”
Three winners and an honourable mention were chosen by a panel of train experts, including social media’s favourite train guru Mark Smith, aka The Man in Seat 61.
Switzerland boasts the best train travel campaign
With its breath-taking Alpine scenery, Switzerland has plenty of natural advantages when it comes to promoting train travel. But the country has also invested in world-class rail infrastructure.
Add to that two witty performances from the half-Swiss Noah and Federer in ‘Grand Train Tour of Switzerland: The ride of a lifetime’ and Switzerland Tourism was bound to win Best Rail Tourism Campaign.
The short film, which has racked up 82 million views on YouTube, demonstrates the joys of in-country travel with humour and mesmerising cinematography.
It opens with Federer and Noah about to start filming the ad before accidentally getting on the wrong train. But, in a country as stunning and well-equipped as Switzerland, it turns out that you can “never [be] on the wrong train.”
Occitanie, France has the most inspiring regional rail offer
The southern French region of Occitane also has heaps of natural beauty and cultural attractions, from castle-crested valleys to the Mediterranean coast.
The ‘Occitanie Rail Tour’ scooped the Best Regional Campaign for its amazing offer to visitors, including:
- Unlimited travel around Occitania for €10 a day, for 2 to 6 consecutive days. This all year round deal is thanks to a deal with SNCF (French Railways) and liO Train (regional trains).
- A tailor-made Michelin guide packed with detailed advice - including where to sit on each train route to get the most out of the scenery.
- Suggestions for accommodation and activities along Occitanie’s 19 railway lines.
Since it can be tricky to find sustainable transport for the final leg of a journey, Occitanie Regional Tourism and Leisure Board was also praised for a campaign that presents rail travel as the solution for that ‘last mile’.
Vienna was voted the best for encouraging cross-border travel
After the isolation of the COVID pandemic, Vienna decided that cross-border rail travel was the best way of restoring Europe’s connectivity.
Last year, for every 100 people that visited Vienna, the tourism board sent a Viennese person to another European city.
This unusual campaign, called ‘Vienna by Train - Uniting Cities’, won the judge’s admiration.
They praised the Best Cross-Border Campaign winner for its portrayal of rail tourism as a means of promoting solidarity between cities and enhancing the quality of life for local residents.
In its bid to position Vienna as a European railway hub, the Austrian capital has plenty else to offer visitors - including a new generation of night trains.
Now in its third year, the Rail Tourism Awards ceremony took place at the World Passenger Festival in Vienna, hosted by ÖBB Austrian Federal Railways and Wiener Linien.
With European rail travel on the rise, it received a record 31 entries this year.
Spain’s Galicia region also got an honourable mention for its 14 tourist rail lines.
Fewer tourists have experienced the unique gastronomy, landscapes and history of Galicia, but ‘Galicia region tourist trains’ by Renfe and Turismo de Galicia are helping to put the region on the map.