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Breaking Travel News interview: Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive, Eurostar

Breaking Travel News interview: Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive, Eurostar

With bright sunshine pouring through the floor to ceiling windows of the new Business Premier Lounge at Gare Du Nord in Paris, Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic declares the company “reborn”.

“This is a renaissance for Eurostar, a very exciting period for us,” he explains.

“We started a new service to the south of France two years ago, to Marseille, which has been well received.

“While, from the end of this year, we will have new routes to The Netherlands – to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, direct from London.”

Standing in the new Business Premier Lounge it is hard not to share his enthusiasm.

With business passengers increasingly choosing high-speed rail over plane travel, the facility has been designed to appeal to the most discerning of travellers.

Created by global architects Softroom, the lounge has the feel of an airy Parisian apartment, but also all the latest technology, from wireless charging stations to free Wi-Fi.

Situated at the back of the lounge, a circular black and gold cocktail bar, a first for Eurostar, also provides an atmospheric space for travellers to sample a selection of drinks designed by London Cocktail Club.

The new Eurostar Business Premier Lounge at Gare Du Nord in Paris

“This lounge is a symbol of a period of investment for Eurostar,” continues Petrovic.

“We are rolling out our new fleet - the e320 trains, with Wi-Fi, on-board entertainment, and a generally much more modern design.

“We have 17 of the e320 trains on order and we should have them all by the middle of 2018.

“The new fleet is being rolled out - the process is not complete but it is very advanced.

“Already on the London-Paris route most of the services are now covered by the new trains.

“It is a great train.”

The new Eurostar trains come complete with sleek lines, a smart new livery, chic designer interiors, and a whole host of eco-friendly upgrades.

Designed by the legendary Italian design house Pininfarina, the rolling stock has been built by German manufacture Siemens to a bespoke specification.

They are also compatible with the entire European high speed rail system, meaning Eurostar could easily expand its network further in future.

Eurostar is rolloing out new e320 trains across its network

But is this a risky time to invest, with the volatile political climate and growing threat of terrorism creating clouds on the horizon?

No, argues Petrovic.

“The business market is resilient,” he continues.

“London and Paris are both large economies, world cities, and very closely linked.

“The amount of energy between them is very high. Our job is to facilitate that energy.

“The impact of Brexit? It is hard to say.

“But at the end of the day I am not too worried.

“It is not as though people are suddenly going to stop going from one to the other.

“In terms of tourism, people love the idea of going to the other city.

“There are already passport checks, so hopefully not too much will change.”

With the business segment seemingly locked up, with ever fewer London to Paris flights offering competition in this lucrative market, Eurostar is turning its attention to other sectors.

Earlier this year the company signed a partnership with Interrail designed to welcome a younger demographic to its network.

Under the terms of the partnership Interrail Pass holders can secure Eurostar seats from £23 one way in standard class with their pass.

At the same time Eurostar has recently launched Snap - a new online booking service powered through Facebook.

Passengers select their travel date and destination, specifying a morning or afternoon departure, with Eurostar confirming the exact time of the train 48 hours before travel.

The system is designed to lower the price of travellers who are flexible with their time.

“We always want new customers and this allows us to target the youth market and even those taking their first job,” explains Petrovic.

“On the Eurostar we welcome all sorts of customers – bankers, artists, tech entrepreneurs, families and students.

“All of their time is precious.”

Eurostar is investing in its facilities in Paris

But it is the new lounge which really illustrates the ambition of the current Eurostar leadership.

Situated on the top floor of the original 19th century building, and featuring high ceilings, marble fireplaces, a cocktail bar and intimate snug spaces, the lounge captures the spirit of Paris.

“The Business Premier passenger is the top class of travel we offer, a very important segment for the market for us,” explains the Eurostar chief.

“London, Paris and Brussels have never been so integrated in terms of economies.

“More and more people want to travel for business between the three cities.

“So we are investing for them, allowing them to travel in the best possible conditions.

“When you travel business class on Eurostar we want you to forget you are travelling; all the time you spend with us is yours.

“It is not wasted time, you can work, relax, network, or whatever suits you.”

Petrovic is also quick to point to the role of culinary director Raymond Blanc in the development of the Eurostar brand over the past five years.

“Raymond is very passionate and he has really helped us up our game – in terms of service, on board the trains, and here in the Business Premier Lounge,” he explains.

“He has really helped us think about what our current and our future passengers want from these spaces.

“We are investing for the future customers.

“They want simple, top quality and, always, a choice.

“One day a passenger might want to be alone, to work, and then the same passenger, the next day, is with friends and wants space, to relax.

“Traditionally we have had a great offer of crisps and nuts… top nuts and top crisps… but we are changing.

“The work we have done with Raymond has been great – we have everything from the very healthy at one end, to the very unhealthy at the other.

“We have a great saucisson to enjoy and then a ginger and carrot drink to feel better about it afterward!”

More Information

Find out more about Eurostar on the official website.

Chris O’Toole