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New SNCB campaign touts international destinations

Credit: Belga

A new campaign from Belgian railway company SNCB is touting the international destinations available to people travelling from Belgium this summer.

The campaign comes just as many countries in Europe are turning orange or green on the travel map from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), meaning the coronavirus in those places has become manageable enough to allow for tourism.

SNCB offers trips to 3,600 international destinations, with over 800 of those less than six hours from Brussels with a maximum of one connection.

“As the summer holidays approach and now that travel abroad is once again possible, SNCB wants to encourage the choice of the train as a safe, comfortable and sustainable means of transport, also for holidays,” the company said in a press release.

Their spotlight on international train travel is another sign of optimism as Europe enters into summer, which is normally tourism’s strongest period.

Last year, the global Covid-19 pandemic brought that sector to a standstill, but on Monday the EU Digital Covid Certificate – intended to facilitate travel for people who are vaccinated or can provide a negative coronavirus test result – was made official, set to go into effect on the first of July.

“The Europe that we all know and that we all want back is a Europe without barriers,” said Presidents David Sassoli and Ursula von der Leyen at the time.

“The EU Certificate will again enable citizens to enjoy this most tangible and cherished of EU rights – the right to free movement.”

Belgium’s SNCB is hoping to facilitate that.

Train tickets for international destinations can be bought in stations or online at a special website geared towards travel outside the country.

The 3,600 international destinations are spread out over 12 European countries, including 431 destinations in Germany, 213 in France, 185 in the Netherlands, 50 in Luxembourg, one in Great Britain and one in Switzerland.

The Nightjet – the night train of the Austrian railway company ÖBB in collaboration with SNCB – will be resuming operations after a six month hiatus, connecting Bruxelles-Midi and Liège-Guillemins to Vienna three times a week, throughout the year.

Image from SNCB.

“The train is not only a sustainable solution, but also a pleasant alternative to short-haul flights,” SNCB says.

“By taking an international train, you don’t waste time by having to be there several hours before departure and you avoid the queues at check-in. Additionally, most international stations are located near or in the centre of cities.”

They also intend to highlight other benefits of train travel – like the ability to socialise or read or listen to music – through the campaign which they’re calling “Hello Europe.”

SNCB said they plan to further expand the international offerings over the next two years as part of the campaign, adding an additional 2,000 destinations to the railway network including cities in Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria and Spain.

“SNCB is also playing an active role in setting up any new night trains,” the company said.

“Discussions are already underway for a number of new projects, in which SNCB – as with the Nightjet – will assume a support role and provide the locomotive, attendants and train drivers for the journey in Belgium.”

They’ve also said they’ll keep certain sanitary measures in place for national and international travel this summer, including enforcing the current mandatory use of a face mask on public transit in Belgium.