A recent NY Times article hit close to home for those of us in the travel industry, and allows me an opportunity to get on my soapbox a little bit to inform our readers of some behind-the-scenes facts of the travel industry that you may not be aware of.
In the article large websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz have been exposed as a somewhat greedy business model that takes much or all of the profit a travel company makes. We do not list with these sites for this reason. Our 40 year history in the adventure travel industry includes some unpleasant experiences with huge conglomerate travel sites like REI Adventures, The Sierra Club, and others. These companies rarely run their own trips, they are simply re-selling the hard work of others. They are so big that it is impossible for a small company to compete on the online marketplace. These booking agencies demand very high commissions, in the neighborhood of 20-30%, which is basically all or even more of the potential profit than one can expect to make in this industry. And when you are selling all inclusive packages like we do, they are not only making profit off of the rooms, like Expedia and Travelocity do, but also off of our sport gear, guiding services, meals, cold beer, everything. When you sign up with a company like one of these, be aware that the company taking you on your vacation will have no extra money to give you a kids discount, a group discount, or to take care of an emergency without going in the hole, like hiring another van if suddenly theirs develops issues. The booking agency has already sucked up all of the profit off of the top, and they don’t even have to run the trip!
Years ago we chose to discontinue working with companies like this, so that we can give the discounts available to our guests. We reward our return guests on any date, and allow families to bring their children under 11 for a discount, even though those children take up just as much room as an adult does (and we have very limited group sizes). Groups of 4 or more also receive a discount, and sometimes we put specific Belize trips on sale that have no bookings 2 months out. If we were paying high commissions on top of these discounts, we wouldn’t be able to reward our customers in this way.
I hope that everyone reading this post will consider doing your own research and signing up with the tour company or hotel directly, rather than booking through a huge conglomerate. By doing this you allow the company to spend the money they make on you, rather than giving it all to the booking agency, leaving the company with no funds to make any improvements in their accommodations, to pay their staff well, or to buy new equipment for their facility.