CAMPAIGN: GW Travel adds class to Trans-Siberian trip

On 26 April, luxury long-distance train operator GW Travel went to Moscow to launch Russia's first luxury private train, the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.

Campaign: Launch of Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Client: GW Travel
PR team: Siren PR and Mikhailov & Partners
Timescale: December 2006 to April 2007
Budget: Undisclosed

Built in collaboration with Russian-based companies Zircon Corporation and Vagon RemService, this £12.8m train was built to make a 14-night run along the world’s longest railway, from Moscow to Vladivostok.

The Altrincham-based firm brought in travel and lifestyle specialist Siren PR to launch the loco before its first commercial journey on 6 May.

OBJECTIVES
To manage launch events, generate brand exposure and drive bookings through positive media coverage. To help cement relationships with industry, business partners, government and regulatory authorities. To enhance GW Travel’s profile with customers and other private stakeholders.

STRATEGY AND PLAN
On 26 April, media and Russian dignitaries were shown around Zircon’s factory before being whisked off to a cocktail reception at the British Embassy, attended by the ambassador for the British Chamber of Commerce, HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

The next day, the prince conducted an official naming ceremony in the Imperial waiting room at Kazansky station in Moscow. He then joined guests on a three-night inaugural journey along the Trans-Siberian route to Yekaterinburg, scene of the murder of his Romanov ancestors in 1918.

This diverse array of guests meant the PR team had to liaise closely with Kensington Palace, all the while observing the protocols surrounding Russo-British diplomacy and hospitality.

The team made several visits to Moscow to iron out the logistics of the event programme. Information was drip-fed to UK press and Siren worked closely with Zircon’s Russian PR agency, Mikhailov & Partners, to co-ordinate international media.

The PR team pitched the launch as a successful Russo-British venture to business journalists. Travel titles were sold in on the ‘ultimate rail adventure’ angle, with Siren flagging up the train’s luxury amenities, including en-suite power showers, under-floor heating, air-conditioning, DVD players and LCD screens.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
Coverage appeared across travel pages and business sections. Highlights included a piece in the Financial Times’ ‘How to Spend It’ supplement, and double-page spreads in The Observer, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

Further features appeared in The Sunday Times, The Times, The Guardian and on BBC News. International coverage included the Moscow Times and the New York Times.

RESULTS
Some 60 journalists visited the Zircon factory and over 100 guests joined Prince Michael, the British ambassador and GW Travel president Tim Littler at the British Embassy cocktail event. Over 120 invited guests, including BBC world affairs editor John Simpson and travel writer Anthony Lambert, journeyed with the party.

Lambert says the historical significance of Prince Michael’s presence was a huge draw and the three-night excursion was well judged. As yet, it is too early in the season for GW Travel to disclose meaningful sales data around its Trans-Siberian packages. However, the firm reports that enquiries and bookings are ‘buoyant’.

SECOND OPINION

Judy McCluskey (L) is agency principal of McCluskey International: Rail travel is the darling of the travel pages at the moment. As well as the glamour and decadent 5-star opulence, travel editors’ current penchant is for ‘green’ stories that don’t feature air travel.

The Golden Eagle travels along one of the world’s most talked about rail routes. You could argue that this was always going to ensure a good turnout of writers, but ensuring the attendance of heavy­weight journalists such as John Simpson was an excellent result.

The involvement of the Russian-speaking Prince Michael of Kent added a historical gravitas to the campaign.

He had already agreed to promote the train before Siren came on board, leaving the agency with the job of co-ordinating with his team and making the most of his involvement.

The great opportunity with luxury rail travel is to promote its connection to the ‘golden age of travel’ – rail journeys like these immediately conjure up images of glamorous men and women in dinner dress sipping cocktails as the world flies by their window.

This particular journey had the added element that in several of the longer, more descriptive newspaper features, the writers make misty-eyed reference to Prince Michael’s ancestors, the Romanovs, and their grizzly demise. This, and the fact that rail’s low carbon footprint ticks the enviro­n­mental box, made the story irres­istible copy for travel editors.

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