johan db

Wilderness safaris and pricing : simple questions

50 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Just wondering why Wilderness safaris is accepting bookings far in advance (more than a year before departure is not uncommon) but on the other hand isn't able to tell the client what his/her safari will cost. If booking far in advance is really necessary is another question. B)

 

Shortly after Indaba this year (a tourism marketing event held on a yearly basis in May) travel agents still had to tell their clients that for 2012, prices weren't available yet and they had to quote their clients based on rack rates for 2011, saying that the customer can expect a price hike that will vary between 10% - 15%. Some of them were urging their clients to speed up the booking process as rooms are supposed to fill up quickly (which I don't believe but that's another discussion) Isn't that amateurish for a company who likes to be the leading ground operator in Southern Africa? :lol:

 

Unlike some of the well-known lodges in South Africa, Wilderness safaris isn't publishing their rack rates on its own website. By the way most of these lodges in SA have published their rates for 2012 some time ago. Andbeyond also published their rates for 2012 ... :)

 

So my question: why??? Wouldn't it also be beneficial for the potential client to know if the agent is asking more than the official rack rate? WS for example doesn't like to have its clients to shop around. Maybe the necessity to do so will decline if they have the feeling they are paying the right price.

 

This is what I found on the website of Eyes on Africa, a well-known TA in the States.

 

Bottom line, if your agent is providing good value (spending time making recommendations, offering alternatives, providing their own first-hand experiences and expertise, dealing with all logistics of the trip, and making special requests with suppliers), then paying RACK RATE (and even slightly more), while also reaping the benefits of a good agent, is an excellent value.

 

Strange??? ;)

 

Probably some of them are asking much more. And I am not implying here that Eyes on Africa is one of them.

 

 

Ciao,

 

J.

Edited by johan db

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What has Eyes on Africa got to do with the question?

 

Also I think you misunderstand what the trip planning section is for, therefore I have moved this to the more general Safari Talk subforum. Matt.

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Posted (edited)

Matt,

 

EOA is one of the only operators I know who admit that some agents are asking prices above the rack rate. The information can be freely found on their website.

 

It's to make my point clear that customers (who book a trip with WS) don't know if agents are asking prices above the rack rates or that the rack rates published on the TA's websites are the official ones. F.e. if an agent is asking higher prices for a stay at Mala Mala, a customer can easily find this out by consulting the website of Mala Mala.

 

Cheers,

 

J.

Edited by johan db

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What is rack rate?

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Posted (edited)

Sverker,

 

The rack rate is the nightly rate you are paying as a client if you book directly with a safari operator. Normally you can book at the same rate with a travel agent. In theory a lodge/safari operator will never sell a bednight at a lower price as a TA does as they are dependent on them.

 

Normally there is an agreement between the safari operator and the travel agent not to sell under the rack rate (as it will be detrimental to both parties). Never mind the client :)

 

WS doesn't allow direct bookings but some agents are publishing their rack rates. Only problem they vary ... As WS isn't publishing official rates themselves, the potential client can't judge which ones are correct and who's charging customers above the rack rate.

 

There have been several threads (on other safari forums) where people admit that WS doesn't like that clients ask a quote for the same itinerary through different agents.

 

The irony of it all is that some people here are saying they don't have a problem with high prices as the (free market) is at play. And on the other hand there are agreements between travel agents and safari operators to prevent the free market to work properly. This last paragraph isn't only about WS. ;)

 

Ciao,

 

J.

Edited by johan db

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Johan,

 

Could you provide some examples?

 

Like; what a particular night at camp X would costs with TA's A, B, C and D?

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Posted (edited)

Jochen,

 

For example: difference between African travel resource/E-gnu

 

Chitabe: price for one night in Chitabe for 2 persons in September 2011: 1.688,89 USD (African travel resource);

Chitabe: price for one night in Chitabe for 2 persons in September 2011: 1.990,00 USD (E-gnu).

 

They both mention that discounts are not taken into account. ATR is also mentioning the following: Do feel free to call or email us at any time to discuss your travel plans and get a detailed and accurate quotation.

 

Note that only a few travel agents are publishing prices on their websites. Which brings another question - why???

 

I can give you more examples (on basis of private mails) but don't think I'll be allowed to do so here. You'll be surprised how much difference there is/can be between certain agents.

 

If price is an issue, clients should ask to receive a break-up of their quote (price per night/cost of transfer between lodge A - B, park fees, other costs ...).

 

Ciao,

 

J.

Edited by johan db

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Jochen,

 

 

. You'll be surprised how much difference there is/can be between certain agents.

 

 

 

when I recently asked for quotes for a ten night stay at the kwando camps for january 2012 the difference between the cheapest and the most expensive quote was at least 20%

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Ahh....the crusade continues. Valid questions and points brought up here, but just so you know, I have in the past tried to book a year or so in advance, only to find that what I wanted wasn't available when I wanted it.

 

It's been said here before, but there are times when you want a specific camp at a specific time. Period. No matter what. The reason doesn't matter. Also, for whatever reason, some people need to have their plans figured out well in advance. That is their right and perogative.

 

Does this justify all of the actions of operators and TAs brought up here? No. But, we all have our reasons for doing things the way we do. What is right for Johan may not be right for Pangolin.

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Jochen,

 

 

. You'll be surprised how much difference there is/can be between certain agents.

 

 

 

when I recently asked for quotes for a ten night stay at the kwando camps for january 2012 the difference between the cheapest and the most expensive quote was at least 20%

 

Ice, in your case it might just be that the 5 Rivers special was probably not quoted by some of these agents you contact. The rates ought to apply December-March.

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If Wilderness Safaris do not accept direct bookings, then it can be argued that there is no true "Rack" rate - as the rack rate is the standard rate a lodge/hotel would quote/charge for a direct booking.

 

Yes, there would ordinarily be a Nett rate (the amount the agent pays Wilderness), and what would normally be called a "Rack" rate (for establishments that take direct bookings) - what the customer should be charged.

As it is a free market, agents can put whatever markup they want on the rooms, though this is not common throught the industry as a whole. Why would a guest pay an agent more, if they can book directly for a lower cost. Wilderness clearly doesn't have this option, which means the agents have more leeway.

 

One possibility for the discrepancy is Wilderness may have individual agreements with some of their agents, depending on how many room nights etc. they sell - the more competitive agents getting a lower nett rate, and can then pass the saving onto guests, to get more business - the reality is, there are any number of agreements or contracts that Wilderness may have negotiated with agents that the customer would never be privy to.

 

While from a customer's point of view, it would be handy to have rates available on the property's website, so you don't have to start trawling agents only to find that it's out of your price range, I can also completely understand why Wilderness are not putting their rates up for all and sundry.

 

And as to demand, I've already been fielding queries for late 2012 and into 2013, so it's never too early to book if you have very specific plans. I would expect though that properties should have their 2012 rates out by now, unless they consider there might be a change in a particular variable (concession fees, or other taxes/government levies) that might considerably increase rates...

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Ice, in your case it might just be that the 5 Rivers special was probably not quoted by some of these agents you contact. The rates ought to apply December-March.

 

most certainly not, I specificaly asked for and was quoted for the 5 River special - by the way, out of curiosity I also asked germany agents for quotes, same result, more than 20% between the best and the most expensive offer, for exactly the same product

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Pangolin & Aussieinafrica,

 

In the coming weeks I'll give you my opinion on early bookings in another thread. ;)

 

Aussieinafrica,

 

As mentioned on EOA's website, agents can sell bed nights at a higher rate (than the rack rate). It's obvious that WS doesn't give us insight on the STO rate (sell to Tour operator rate) as that will vary (based on nights sold, ...) and will reveal the commission an agent earns. As you probably know (or don't know) agents selling WS bed nights are not allowed to sell under a certain price (rack rate or theoretical rack rate if you prefer this name). So the savings go entirely to the agent if he has to pay a lower STO rate.

 

The reasons for a mark up are unclear (widening their profit base, expertise, ...). And as they don't like clients to shop around, it's difficult to let the "so-called" free market work properly. A certain agent is even asking a fee of 500 USD (which will be waived if you book with him/her) to give a quote

 

The "free market" for the WS product (taken into account you only want to go on safari with them) is a joke to me as the agent is guaranteed a certain commission. Perfectly understandable from their viewpoint ... :lol:

 

For example:

 

STO rate: 700 USD, rack rate: 1.000 USD. So agents can charge 1.200 USD a night but not 950 USD. If WS would publish the rack rate, clients won't feel the need to see if agent X or Y is offering a better rate as asking a surplus would be much more difficult to sell. They would merely compete on service/knowledge but not on price. Other safari companies publish their rates, why doesn't WS do so?

 

I think it's ridiculous to accept bookings if you can't tell your clients how much it will finally cost you. As you know lease fees, ... are only a minor part of the rack rate.

 

WS and other safari operators are accepting last minute bookings in Maun at considerable lower prices (than the rack rate) so they do accept direct bookings.

 

Some TA's are maybe creative and sell under the rack rate without WS knowing. ;)

 

Cheers,

 

Johan

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Pangolin & Aussieinafrica,

 

In the coming weeks I'll give you my opinion on early bookings in another thread. ;)

(1) Why would I have ever doubted this?

(2) Why would I care?

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A certain agent is even asking a fee of 500 USD (which will be waived if you book with him/her) to give a quote

Anybody who puts up with this pretty much deserves what they get.

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Maybe the necessity to do so will decline if they have the feeling they are paying the right price.

 

 

What is your formula for finding out the right price?

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A certain agent is even asking a fee of 500 USD (which will be waived if you book with him/her) to give a quote

Anybody who puts up with this pretty much deserves what they get.

 

Can we know who? How about a pm to me if you don't want to post it here? I understand if I am sworn to secrecy. I'm very good at shutting up.

 

While I am appalled, I guess it depends on how much money you have and how much service you want. If I routinely dropped $500 on a gag gift or buying Girl Scout cookies, then $500 for a quote would not phase me. (That would be like being asked for $3.50 in advance now, which would not deter me.) If I wanted daily conversations with my agent to reassure me my favorite wines were on hand at the camps I had chosen or that the chef knew my favorite dishes, I might consider an agent who gladly entertained my questions to be worth $500 up front.

 

I'm sure there are people out there that fit this description. But I doubt they are posting or even lurking on safaritalk.

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I'm sure there are people out there that fit this description. But I doubt they are posting or even lurking on safaritalk.

oh-oh! :huh: Sprung! :unsure:

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other safari operators are accepting last minute bookings in Maun at considerable lower prices (than the rack rate) so they do accept direct bookings.

... so, book with them instead... that is how market forces operate...

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Ice, in your case it might just be that the 5 Rivers special was probably not quoted by some of these agents you contact. The rates ought to apply December-March.

 

most certainly not, I specificaly asked for and was quoted for the 5 River special - by the way, out of curiosity I also asked germany agents for quotes, same result, more than 20% between the best and the most expensive offer, for exactly the same product

 

 

Oops!!!

 

Good on you to shop around!!!!

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Hey Pangolin,

 

I know Johan may not be the friendliest guy, or choose the wrong wording, or is too confrontational. And he sometimes even chooses "the wrong enemy" IMHO. But...

 

(2) Why would I care?

 

... please understand this thread is not about you. It's about all of us. I mean; somewhere you wrote "sometimes you want a certain camp at a certain moment no matter what". I wish I could make a statement like that, but alas, I'm not that rich. For me, as for most of us (I assume) putting together a safari itinerary is increasingly difficult. The higher the prices get every year, the more difficult the exercise of finding a place that gives me correct market value (quality vs price). Prices sometimes go up by 10% or more, per year. My wage doesn't go up like that. If yours does; kudos to you.

 

So, if anyone decides to share info on pricing, and on ways to get last minutes that are way lower in price then I, for one, do care. No matter if I like that person or not. ;)

 

 

Anybody who puts up with this pretty much deserves what they get.

 

I have no trouble admitting that ten years ago, as a complete safari noob, I might have paid that just because I didn't know better. This is another reason why I like fora like these; I think it is important that we expose such malpractices, and warn members and lurkers about this. Or at least make them understand that these practices are not the general rule, and that there are plenty of alternatives.

 

B.Regs,

 

J.

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Wilderness are far from the only ones not to publish rack rates, but it is thankfully becoming rarer. Whether it is their right or not, it can be a real annoyance when planning a trip and I feel indisposed to them (and others) because of it. I don't expect they will be too concerned about this news. In East Africa, and most other southern African countries (I believe Wilderness properties may be the only ones in Namibia not to post rack rates online?) "secret" pricing seemed to be becoming less rather than more common. Some were still holding a fig leaf over their modesty by posting only "package prices" but since the cost of an extra night on the package is the cost of a night, the secret is usually out.

 

Strangely, the formerly "loud and proud" Cheli & Peacock is heading in the opposite direction and offer only a set of packages with no additional night options now. So maybe things are turning back... I don't follow very closely nowadays.

 

I'm unsure if that is any contribution to the discussion (if there was a discussion?) at all....

 

And how many camps (outside Botswana and not owned by W or C&P) now do not have pricing available online through their web sites?

 

 

Market forces work when the market is educated. Keeping customers in the dark for as long as possible about prices seems like action intended to counter market forces. But I am no economist. :)

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Posted (edited)

Hey Pangolin,

 

I know Johan may not be the friendliest guy, or choose the wrong wording, or is too confrontational. And he sometimes even chooses "the wrong enemy" IMHO. But...

 

(2) Why would I care?

 

... please understand this thread is not about you. It's about all of us. I mean; somewhere you wrote "sometimes you want a certain camp at a certain moment no matter what". I wish I could make a statement like that, but alas, I'm not that rich. For me, as for most of us (I assume) putting together a safari itinerary is increasingly difficult. The higher the prices get every year, the more difficult the exercise of finding a place that gives me correct market value (quality vs price). Prices sometimes go up by 10% or more, per year. My wage doesn't go up like that. If yours does; kudos to you.

 

So, if anyone decides to share info on pricing, and on ways to get last minutes that are way lower in price then I, for one, do care. No matter if I like that person or not. ;)

Jochen-

 

That was not a statement about not wanting information. Information is good, whether it supports or refutes our previous notions. That was a statement about "providing an opinion on booking well in advance". Opinions are all fine as good as well, but person A's opinion on what is good for them is not necessarily what is good for person B. I'm not a big fan of being preached to, especially by a recent convert. Sharing information and offering an opinion is great - we all do it. Beating the equine into submission and eventual death is a little much.

 

You are correct that this discussion is not about me. But just as much as it is not about me, it is not about Johan either. If he strays from providing "information" to beating us over the head with his opinion about what is right for him, and therefore must be right for everyone, then I stand by what I said.

 

I am far from rich, and I should have revised my statement about a certain camp at a certain time to reflect that as long as it is within what I can afford and am willing to pay. I am just as frustrated as everybody else about the increased cost of going on safari to my favorite places. My salary has in no way matched the rate of price increaes. But......I now have enough safari experience and have developed relationships that make me want to ensure I can be in a certain area in a certain time frame with a certain guide. That is what is right for me. Note that I go once every three years or so; not nearly as often as some other folks on this forum (good for them, I say).

Edited by Pangolin

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Posted (edited)

Luangwablondes,

 

I only wanted to point out that because WS isn't publishing any rates,one of the consequences is that people are shopping around to see which TA is offering the best price. Maybe some of you can try it out and see what results you get ... just for the fun of it. ;)

 

Also I don't think the WS clientele is price insensitive, as I often heard the opposite when I spoke to fellow travellers at their camps. :) And some of them were especially interested if it was possible to cut out the middleman.

 

The right price can be interpreted in many ways ... (compared to the rack rate/STO rate/camping safaris in comparable areas/lodges of the same quality in other countries, ...). So plenty of components for the wonder formula :lol:

 

This is what a American travel agent selling WS wrote on another safari forum - some of you must remember this thread. It was quite a popular one and guess who started it B)

 

There is not restriction to what an agent can charge. this not only applies to wilderness, but also to any camp we sell. as you know, most camps publish their prices on their web site. even with this in mind, many americans will buy their safari without ever using the internet to get a rough idea of fair price.

 

Wilderness safaris has an RSP or recommended sell price. selling below this price is discouraged and advertising any price below this is contractually forbidden. advertising could be in print, on a forum, or on a web site.

 

It is always good to do a bit of shopping around to see who has the best prices.

 

 

 

Pault,

 

Market forces work when the market is educated. Keeping customers in the dark for as long as possible about prices seems like action intended to counter market forces. Well said.

 

Pangolin,

 

The fact that I don't go on safari, doesn't have anything to do with what I am writing here. Before I joined ST, I already criticised safari operators, travel agents ... on Fodor's.

 

Jochen,

 

Don't write it for myself of course ... The fact that the regulars are familiar with all of this, doesn't mean everyone else is.

 

Lynn,

 

Look what I found on Fodor's today: http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/micato-safaris---good-tour-operator.cfm

 

Cheers,

 

J.

Edited by johan db

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Pangolin,

 

It's all right not to be interested in the umtieth thread on the same subject, launched by the same person. But then just leave it be. Why even post in it, like this one?

 

Johan,

 

Am I understanding this correctly? Is Micato the company charging 500$ for a quote?

Can we name names here?

 

Thx,

 

J.

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