Germany: train tickets are almost no longer sold at agencies

Digital is growing and points of sale are shrinking. Deutsche Bahn mainly relies on mobile phones and websites for sales. Four out of five tickets are sold through the Navigator app. The same trend is emerging in France.

84% of all long-haul tickets are now sold through the Navigator app

More than 90 million mobile tickets are purchased every year through the Navigator rail app and more than a billion pieces of travel information are accessed. Grupo DB also offers online ticket purchasing on its website. Massive investments are bearing fruit. “We see that booking behavior has fundamentally changed over the years and that more and more travelers are booking their tickets digitally”, emphasizes a DB spokesperson. It is assumed that this trend will continue.

There are only 320 physical points of sale left out of 1,000

Digital direct selling brings several advantages to service providers. You save commissions and also fees for fixed points of sale. Businesses also receive valuable data when customers sign up. DB’s competitor, Flixtrain, relies almost exclusively on online sales. The council no longer has its place.

Just go to the station and buy a ticket at the ticket office, which is no longer open in many places..

After the railway reform in 1994, the new joint stock company sold most of the federal and state railway reception buildings at over 5,000 stations. For cost reasons, around 600 of the 1,000 train station travel centers were simply closed and the number of employees was significantly reduced. The public company is gradually reducing its counters.

The remaining points of sale often have long queues and limited staff, much to the chagrin of customers. In the 25 largest points of sale, the group intends to expand reception areas and install new customer reception systems. Customers can then receive the queue number digitally on their smartphones. However, it is not about increasing staff.

Travel agencies stop selling tickets

Over the years, the DB group also increasingly reduced its sales through travel agencies. Since 2023, many agencies no longer receive any remuneration for advising and selling rail travel. The railway giant had already continued to reduce travel agency commissions despite heavy criticism. The result : nearly one in two business partners has already given up their database license.

1,700 agencies out of 3,200 continue to sell train tickets

At the beginning of the millennium, customers could get train travel advice from around 3,200 agencies across the country and obtain tickets. There are now only about 1,700 DB-licensed travel agencies left, the group surveyed said. The German Travel Association warned in vain that many agencies would give up selling train trips, which often require extensive advice, if they no longer received little or no remuneration in return.

Even vending machines will decrease

There are currently around 5,000 DB ATMs in around 3,000 locations across the country. When asked, the group responded that it was around 16% less than in 2018.

The number of machines depends on specifications from regional transport authorities and winning bids, according to the railway company. When awarding new transport contracts, policies may stipulate that in addition to the digital offer, other points of sale are not neglected. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen sufficiently.

The purchase of air tickets will gradually disappear from travel agencies

It is obvious that what is happening in Germany will also happen in France. In addition to agencies specializing in business travel, they will continue to issue tickets. Air transport follows the same path, including low-cost airlines. Many airlines direct customers to their websites. Having an IATA approval is expensive. The number of agencies issuing airline tickets will tend to decrease.

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