AnotherThought/Question on Botswana prices

May 22nd, 2008, 05:59 PM
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Well said!


BK - You referring to the former Mombo guide? I have met him recently as manager on relief basis when Alwyn was on leave.
HariS is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Don't know if you were a reader of this forum when a travel agent had an on-going thread of a photo gallery. This photo gallery, was nothing more than accomodations of lodges and camps across Africa. With emphasis on things like this - what else do you expect? The end result - a perfect reaction can be read in the Chitabe thread!
HariS is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 01:33 AM
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There are two ways to look at staying at the expensive locations. IF the area is incredibly productive, like Mombo and you want that experience, then you are ultimately held to ransom by the suppliers of that location.

When you start looking at certain Botswana concessions, what is the need to stay at Kings Pool over Duma Tau for example. The Premier camps are WS's true cash cows.

Are we being swindled, yes and no. Supply and demand has pushed prices up to highly inflated levels. On a personal micro level, I would say yes, but it all comes down to the persons willingness to pay. It is a case of looking off the beaten path, to low tourism places that are yet to reach the pages of Tatler. Botswana has marketed itself well, as the stable democracy etc. Though as one ofthe last true remaining Wilderness's, it is unstandable why there is such a cost. PAying for untouched does come at a price.

My major issue with cost, is not that game viewing does not satisfy or I do not feel I get value for another wilderness experience. I take issue with simple things like payment of staff. Guides are not paid highly becasue they are told their wages will be made up in tips. Whilst I do not say that guests should not tip, but it is considered expected, not for good service.

I also draw issue when camps are run down whilst still charging a high amount. I am not asking for superb accommodations to a premier level, but a degree of quality to the finish.

As for why a certain person was 'retired' from Wilderness. There was a clash in the vision for the direction of WS. Not the premier camp driection and higher scale luxury camps. North Island was a camp that opened not long after some of the founders had left. I know that many people left WS once it became the corporate brand it is today.

I think that many companies that have their own concessions, have realised that they can tap into the luxury market to a degree, so are charging accordingly. THis includes upgrading. I also believe that people have seen so many articles on the 'safari in style', that most camps have to provide this level to compete too. THe cost of an upgarde is minimal to massive returns in the longer term.

As for having simplicity in the bush, I believe that by having luxury they are able to increase their target market in the US, so it is an understandable decision. Speaking to the average traveller, particularly Americans, this what they are looking for.

I do not want to appear to have sour grapes. Any company is going to maximize their revenues based on conditions of supply and demand. Botswana is an amazing destination, though after visiting other countries, some people feel that it does not live up to the hype or cost.

Wildlife should generate as much money as possible, it is only with such a high economic value that these areas remain and possibly expand. It encourages people to make conservancies to tap into this market and also re-stock ravaged and remote parks.

However, I draw issue when people are lied to about why they are paying so much. Overall, to get a few shareholders richer, like in all business. There are other areas that offer good game viewing at a lower cost. It is just another consideration when you plan on booking your safari.

As for Value for money, only you can determine that once you have been. Though if you want a true a more bush hotel experience then SA and Bots are your place to go.

daoracle is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 01:36 AM
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An agent posting and advertising through a forum for the luxury market, surprise,surprise. Though for 30% of $3000 per night, who wouldn't try it on...................?
daoracle is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 05:35 AM
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Don't forget the enormous pressure that mounts on the guides to deliver - to near demanding levels at times. Some of these visitors are not even patient enough to spend time out, to find the need to track etc etc.,

Next, their attention is diverted to the bush dinners and the fancy amenities that they love to spend their time indulging in. Eventually, the standard of guiding is going to spiral downwards. Guides can't stay motivated long enough?
HariS is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 06:55 AM
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I recall an Afrikaans saying I learnt in my youth, which translated means.
"Tall trees catch the most wind."

In this instance it is apparent that high rates catch the most criticism.
The beauty of capitalism is that there is choice and if you don't want to refinance your home to photograph an impala you don't have too. There are many camps in Botswana that charge way less than the argued $1000 + rates. similarly there are many camps in SA, Zambia, Mozambique & Namibia that are way less expensive.

If you have been lied to about what you will get for the money you are paying. I believe that is a crime called fraud, some might say extortion, so take issue and sue for restitution.

mkhonzo is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 07:46 AM
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regarding LUXURY camps and rates:
within the last 5-8 years almost every luxury camp added a wellness centre/spa foremost because the american market demands this feature.
do fodorites really make use of this facilities?
divine54 is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 02:31 PM
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For Botswana high season, there are now very few lodges in the private areas that do not charge within $100per night of $1000.

I can think no more than 10 in this category. That is perhaps 20-30% of the market.
May 23rd, 2008, 03:03 PM
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I think the largest piece of the pie has to be profit, particularly when it comes to the more expensive camps. As Lynn and others have noted, many costs are pretty constant from camp to camp.

Kingís Pool may pay more for strawberries than Duma Tau does for apples, especially when you factor in the chocolate; Zibís wine cost might be higher than Lebalaís; and Jao probably has a better chef than Tubu Tree. But, can these differences possibly account for even a small portion of the difference in cost per night? I doubt it.

Fancy tents are obviously more expensive than basic tents, but are they twice or even three times as expensive to build and/or maintain? Not likely.

Do the guides and other staff members make more money at one camp over another, even if they are in the same concession? If there is a difference in wages, I bet it isnít a big one. The staff-guest ratio may be higher at more expensive camps, but still I cannot believe that wages account for any significant portion of the difference between a mid-priced camp and a high priced camp.

Safari camps are a business like any other, and the owner of that business is entitled to charge what he/she wants. Does a pair of designer jeans cost more to make than a pair of Levis? Perhaps. A lot more? I doubt it. But, they cost quite a bit more, donít they?

Cost is simply a function of what the market will bear. And, apparently some people donít mind paying $1,500/pppn. I am not one of those people, so Iíd love to know the answer to Lynnís original question. How/where can the rest of us cut corners to keep prices down?

People are going to say "stop" demanding the luxury. But, I personally don't demand the luxury and neither do many on these boards. Not only do I not need phone, fax, internet, spa, hairdryer, etc., but I wouldn't want those things in the bush even if the camps with them were less expensive than the camps without them. It spoils the ambience.

I fear the only way we'll be able to keep the type of camps we want is to pay the $1,500/pppn the luxury camps command, but to pay that for camps without the frills. IF I could afford $1,500/night (which I can't) I'd be happy to do that (ie pay to NOT have amenities) just to have a better safari experience.
Dana_M is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 03:40 PM
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I don't know if it was in this thread or not but Predator stated Footsteps in Africa rates are something like 40% less (maybe it was only 30% but that's substantial) in high season.

Now that gets my attention if Predator's Mapula sightings or even something close to that is typical.

Dana I have thought your exact comment below, but never put it into words.
"I fear the only way we'll be able to keep the type of camps we want is to pay the $1,500/pppn the luxury camps command, but to pay that for camps without the frills. IF I could afford $1,500/night (which I can't) I'd be happy to do that (ie pay to NOT have amenities) just to have a better safari experience."

atravelynn is offline  
May 23rd, 2008, 10:41 PM
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This thread is very interesting to me in a lot of ways.

First, the USA market is large and diverse and unfortunately one segment of that market is largely responsible for driving up these luxury upgrades and astronomical pricing due to the limited supply of concessions and lodging. Unfortunately I believe there is a much larger USA market that would love this experience but cannot afford and often simply will not pay such rates and because the small luxury market is still big enough to fill up existing space a large portion of the lodging has all gone to serve this one segment of traveler.

Lynn: not only is Mapula high season rate 25 to 40% less than the classic level WS camps and Kwando camps but the lodging was actually much larger and more luxurious than say Duma Tau, Duba Plains, Lebala and Kwara. Of course I don't really care too much about the accommodation and those camps all have outstanding wildlife (the primary reason I visited them) but Mapula was just as good. This ties back to the early suggestion that the operators are making huge profits. Mapula is able to charge significantly less and delivers every bit as much (perhaps spends a little less on food than WS camps) and they do not even benefit from the large economy of scale that WS has to get better deals on food and supplies and yet I believe they are still making a satisfying profit which tells me the higher priced lodges are really raking it in. On top of that Mapula is owned by a local woman (Ma Pula -- woman of the rain, born during rain, something like that is the orgin of the name) and it is the only lodge that I have been to that is set up with virtually all couples working there so they do not go 3 months without seeing their spouses. Sankuyo Plains Camp will be opening in October and they have a unique new model for Botswana of the local community taking 50% of the daily operating profits in addition to already being paid the concession fee. I believe the high season rack rate is going to be $750, here Lodges of Botswana who pays to build and direct the operation can somehow afford to split the profit down the middle with the community and still charge significantly below the Botswana luxury rate. I believe this camp will be fairly luxurious and it is smack dab in the middle of Botswana biggest predator research area so again I think the quality will be comparable for much less money.

Dana: As you see above I think the keys to find a more affordable trip to Botswana is look beyond WS and Kwando during the high season. Consider traveling out of the high season, there are tremendous bargains and the experience is still incredible if planned well. The Kalahari Summer special makes it possible to travel for $300 to $350 pppn depending on how many flights you take and with the 5 Rivers special Kwando Camps can be had for just a bit more, probably around $400 pppn. CC Africa's Under Canvas camps are good deals too, $350 to $550 for those who do not need all the luxuries of permanent camps but they are inside the park so you lose the exclusivity of the private concessions. To me these are reasonable prices while virtually nothing lodge based in the high season is. The other good cost saving option is to take a mobile. There seem to be more good guides getting into that business and some areas like the CKGR it is a fantastic way to go.

I've warned before but the agent agenda model is a big problem with finding the better values. WS has really had phenomenal success in selecting agents who agree to virtually only sell their product -- if they can't meet their volume or sell too much of someone else they do not get the privildge to sell WS. Likewise, because agents depend on commissions there is a financial incentive to sell the most expensive properties. I have been told of a couple of first hand experiences where people have requested Mapula Lodge and the agents have made false claims that it is not a high quality lodge. Likewise, I have heard a couple stories where agents who sell WS blame an isolated injury from over a decade ago to a Kwando client as a reason to not book them. I also think customers simply cannot believe that a product that cost significantly less can be as good as a higher priced product and thus they are easily steered into the highest priced offerings.

Buyer beware, look out for one product-line agents, and don't be afraid to mix in at least one value choice on each safari, especially if it delivers greater benefits to the local community because oddly enough these highest priced properties have the largest ecological footprints and they too often use the excuse of their high clientele to avoid hiring local managers.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 03:55 AM
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Predator: That is a most insightful post.
mkhonzo is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 08:17 AM
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As always, excellent information PB. I totally agree with you about looking for alternatives to companies that have such a large presence that they can practically set the price point. To me it says something if CCAfrica, generally pretty high end in both price and service, is a reasonably priced alternative.
Dana_M is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 09:37 AM
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CC Africa seems to be recognizing the different market segments and pursuing more than one. Their 2 new camps opening in August, Xarrana Tented Camp and Xudum Camp are going to be 6 Paw competition with private plunge pools and salas and a shop selling safari chic clothing -- high season rate $1,100 pppn! Yet I think it was just last year that they introduced the Chobe and Savute Under Canvas product that it is the simple semi-mobile and more affordable product that many of us have been clamoring for.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
May 24th, 2008, 08:57 PM
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They are priced between 350-550$ in Chobe/Savute mostly because, the alternative of good quality mobiles run pretty much below or equal to that rate. Anyone going to these areas, can just as easily access it via a good mobile operator vs CCA.
HariS is offline  
May 25th, 2008, 02:25 AM
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Does anybody have any idea why Mashatu is also so cheap?
May 25th, 2008, 08:07 AM
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It's not in the normal Botswana game areas, and it's relatively difficult to get to.
napamatt is offline  
May 25th, 2008, 08:20 AM
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On Santawani, it is cheaper because the area is inferior.

As for Footsteps, it is cheaper, but then again it is a walking safari.

Mapula, at only 12,000 hectares, you dont want to be stuck here in during a high flood.

As for the agent issue, an interesting aspect to look at is who you book with. Large volume operators will get you a better rate. Secondly, it is actually more cost effective for a client to stay with the same operator. As your long stay discounts come into effect.
daoracle is offline  
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