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Is this any way for a tour operator to treat a Fodorite???

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Feb 17th, 2004, 05:53 AM
  #1
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Is this any way for a tour operator to treat a Fodorite???

>From: "Zambezi Safari and Travel Co Ltd"
>Reply-To:
>To: "Rocco Morelli"
>Subject: Requests to Zambezi Safaris and Luangwa Safari Network
>Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 10:00:54 -0000

>Dear Mr. Morelli
>
>Since March last year, through various channels, directly and indirectly, we
>?ve provided you with several quotes and information on trips within
>Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia.
>
>With respect we?re having great difficulty keeping up especially since you
>say that you?ve booked directly with non-requested outfits.
>
>We would be quite happy to assist you if you?re prepared to make fair use of
>our services.
>
>The only person who can help you with a microlight flight in the Luangwa is
>a good friend of ours, John Coppinger, at Tafika north of the Nsefu Sector.
>John should be contacted directly through his company Remote Africa Safaris.
>Please respect his company?s time and resources as they make use of costly
>satellite connections for communication.
>
>We have in the meantime closed the various correspondence files that we have
>been opened for you.
>
>If you seriously require our assistance as tour operations and ground
>handlers in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and Tanzania then
>please get back telephonically.
>
>Regards,
>John Berry
>+44 7900 582746

AND NOW FOR MY RESPONSE:

Dear John,

In the last two years, I have booked with four different tour operators for portions of three separate holidays in Southern Africa. I have found some tour operators more competitive than others and it is with these tour operators that I have not only booked with but praised and spread the news about to others, like me, that love to travel to Southern Africa. Trust me, my gospel has resulted in numerous bookings for certain operators as I am a very active member on a couple different bulletin boards.

So, in retrospect, perhaps you need to look at your own company to see why it did not earn my business. Think about it...you had NUMEROUS chances to earn my business but never once did.

Please close your file on me and I will close my file on Zambezi Safaris and Luangwa Safari Network. Our "relationship" has been an equal waste of time and effort for me.

Rocco Morelli

--By the way, I booked the microlight flights with Kaingo who is handling everything for me for only $60 USD, which is probably half as much as Luangwa Safari Networks would have charged me had I added it on to a very expensive package that I would have had to booked through them.

I promise you that my Zambian safari would have been $2,000 USD more had I booked through this company and I hand it all to the tour operators on a plate, with them acting only as a conduit to the game lodges. Well this year, I became my own conduit when I found that the markup by this and other companies was usually absurd, 100% in this case.
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Feb 17th, 2004, 06:08 AM
  #2
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So, that is the first recorded backlash that I have received for being a good consumer. By the way, just to clarify, the last two paragraphs after I signed off were not part of the email, but instead directed at the forum.

Why on Earth would I book with an "expert" tour operator that cannot even get close to the prices I can get for myself? I would be embarrassed if in my line of work, somebody could offer my customers the same product for not only less, but for 50% less! I certainly wouldn't bash the customer for not hiring me, but I would try to figure out what made me so high and try to correct it.

It seems this company actually has other websites and when people think that they are receiving quotes from a competitor, they are instead receiving quotes from someone else working at the same company and with access to the prior communications! In response, they can choose to offer a very small additional discount or can go the other way and make it MORE expensive than the first quote to make you think that the original quote was a very good quote.

In response, for anybody that remembers that American urban comedy that featured comedian Damon Wayans..."Homey don't play that!"
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Feb 17th, 2004, 07:26 AM
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Roccco,

Not sure if I have the total gist of this all but if I read your posting two paragraphs that have me puzzled are the following:
_____

John Berry wrote:

>Since March last year, through various channels, directly and indirectly, we
>have provided you with several quotes and information on trips within
>Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia.
______

You wrote:

Why on Earth would I book with an "expert" tour operator that cannot even get close to the prices I can get for myself? I would be embarrassed if in my line of work, somebody could offer my customers the same product for not only less, but for 50% less! I certainly wouldn't bash the customer for not hiring me, but I would try to figure out what made me so high and try to correct it.
________________


Firstly your own words answer this all "Why on Earth would I book with an "expert" tour operator that cannot even get close to the prices I can get for myself? " So I firstly ask you to answer yourself first before calling on us to make comments about this all.

No matter what my take on this all is that you had sent this organisation many requests and obviously got no joy from them. Furthermore you seemed to have recognised that they were ripping you off. With that said my question is the following:

Why did you even persist with this company if you knew that they were ripping you off or for that matter not offering you good service?

If. as I see it, you kept responding and writing emails to the company and they soon recognised that you were NOT going to be using their services I think you were very lucky to even receive the reply that John Berry sent you in his last mail. In terms of you receiving a response from Berry which you decry as a good consumer, maybe you should be looking at what you have done and ask yourself whether you have been a good consumer or simply a pain in the behind.

Please note that I am making an assumption that there has been quite a lot of mail correspondence between you and John Berry hence I ask the above questions. I base this fact on your line "Think about it...you had NUMEROUS chances to earn my business but never once did."

In terms of the excess charges that Berry seems to be charging may I remind you that it is free market out there and those who want to charge can do whatever they please. If they feel their product is strong enough to hold the market then so be it as the market will eventually either find them out or let them be. Following up on this point I went to the website of Zambezi Safari and Travel Co Ltd and I was absolutely stunned to see 6 SOLID pages of very, very happy clients If you don?t believe me go to http://www.zambezi.co.uk/feedback.html and look for yourself. In a nutshell there seems to be a lot more people complimenting the organisation relative to your complaint. I grant the fact that we don?t know who has complained in the past however the long list of wonderful comments sure makes one think about this all.

Roccco its a free market out there where you as the client can buy a deal and the seller has the right to reject your trade. Whether you like it or not I suggest you recognise this. So in answer to your question of "should a tour operator treat a Fodorite like this?? my gut feel is that I think that Berry has been quite decent in the manner that he has told you that he does not want your trade and nothing stops him from doing so. Instead of you moaning about being brushed off by someone whose services you seemingly were not going to use anyway you should rather look at why he has sent you the mail that you have published. With that said by you publishing the last mail in your correspondence and not all the mails that are spoken of very flippantly in your posting I definitely feel that you are in the wrong to start off with as you have simply given us your side of the story and not the total one.

So Roccco my suggestion to you is write to Mr.Berry in a manner where you invite him to come have his say in this forum about his side of the story. Tell him that you have a published your posting and ask him to come to this website so as to respond. If he does this THEN AND ONLY THEN will we all be in a true position to answer the question of your posting header of ?should a tour operator treat a Fodorite like this?

Look froward to hopefully seeing BOTH sides of this story

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa






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Feb 17th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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I'll also weigh in, ableit with far fewer facts than Roccco. I really enjoy your posts and hope that you do not take this the wrong way, but from your frequent posts, it seems that you change travel plans/itineraries/game parks, etc. on an almost weekly basis, and as soon as you create an itinerary, and then with every minor modification, you send it to several operators to ask them for a quote (I recall several quotes earlier this year for aborted trips to Zanzibar, Selous, Serengeti, etc., and still another round of quotes for abandoned trips to Botswana).

I do not think that an operator merely enters your itinerary into a computer and then awaits the quote, but rather the quote requires substantial time commitment, phone and email satellite calls, etc. In my experience, operators are willing to provide a free quote in the beginning of the process in order to secure your business, but I know that there are operators who charge for this service (in fact, Mark Nolting's company, Africa Adventures, charged me $100 to provide a quote in 1999 -- I don't know if they have continued this practice).

So I think Zambezi Safaris became justifiably annoyed when they continued to receive revised itineraries from you with no results (I think their reference to "directly and indirectly" means they were probably offering their services to other operators you contacted).

Africa is very expensive, and we all want a fair price, but I think it is incumbent upon us to realize that operators do not have unlimited resources, either time or personnel, and they cannot be expected to constantly revise quotes. Your effort to save $50, for example, may have costed several operators much more than that in time and lost business.

So, based solely on the limited email trail you posted, and I realize I do not have the benefit of your entire correspondence, I do not think Zambezi Safari is unreasonable.

And to answer your question as to why someone would pay an operator a premium to book what you can book yourself for less, I believe you have answered that in your myriad posts when you have advised us how much time and effort you have expended on planning your trip (lost sleep, hundreds of emails, etc.). Many would much prefer to find an operator with whom they are comfortable and allow the operator to do all the hard work, and for that, the operator should be fairly paid. In a post many months ago I mentioned that I booked my first trip to South Africa through a Johannesburg based operator, and I was very pleased with the experience. Since that time, he has booked my safaris to Botswana/Zambia and to Namibia. Since I had a ballpark figure in mind, when his quote was in my ballpark, I booked. I didn't shop his quote to several other operators to see if I could save a few hundred bucks.

I'd like to see the response from Zambezi Safari.

I hope you take this post as its intended, since I think you are among the most well informed and well intentioned posters on this forum.

I would appreciate if you or anyone else can let me know if you or they disagree.

Michael
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Feb 17th, 2004, 08:53 AM
  #5
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Oh Rocco, I am so sorry! After you returned from your trip last year and related how shabbily you were treated by that one lodge where the managers wouldn't even look you or STD in the eye, and then made you eat on your deck alone to keep you from the other guests, I shuddered. I think the society in Africa is so small and tight that when you jerk around all of the other operators, they spread the word, much as you do here.
I am so terribly sorry, but I sincerely worry for your safety. Peole still disappear in Africa. That ultra-light flight is operated by a friend of the guy you just insulted. Aren't you afraid he could retaliate?
I so appreciate what you did for me, but I've so wanted to ask you to be kinder and more patient with the folks giving you the bids. Please be careful and please forgive me for this post. I am truly worried for your safety. You absolutely MUST be kind to people while in the camps too. They all communicate by radio as soon as you leave one camp for another. They know where you will be going next. Liz
 
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Feb 17th, 2004, 09:38 AM
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In response, I am a public works contractor, and do not get ANY work that I am not the low bidder on.

I have to wheel and deal at work just as I do with my safaris, except I am on the opposite end and trying to get as much as I can while my customer is trying to get the job done for as little as he/she can.

Regarding my safety, I have faith in God and that is enough. Hopefully the microflight instructor will not eject me over a pod of hippos, but if does do so...WHAT A WAY TO GO!!!

Hopefully in the future, I will have so much financial comfort that I will be able to deal with a single operator, as Thit Cho, does and just say DO IT and that is it. However, for now, I must shop around and I don't think I have broken any rules in doing so. I do not give away Zambezi Safari's quotation or any other companies quotation to a competitor, despite some operators ASKING for that information.

When I contact an operator, it is not just for fun, but because I have a sincere interest in a certain itinerary. I had every intention of visiting Tanzania but since I couldn't get the frequent flier seats, it didn't work out.

Ultimately, I am still giving business to the lodges. Perhaps I am not supporting the whole network of tour operators out there in this case, but I did book all of each of my last two trips through tour operators, including African Travel Inc., out of Glendale, CA, just a couple miles away from my hometown, as well as to South African based operators.

Perhaps it was in poor taste to start this original thread, but I also thought it was in poor taste for Zambezi Safari to feel the need to inform me of their decision to block me from their database. Don't talk about it, just do it.

In the end, I will fill a bed at each place that is currently unsold three months prior to my visit, beds that may have been sold locally at even less than the amount that I am paying.

I know that as a result of my raves about the Twelve Apostles Hotel, although Mr. Selwyn would have you believe that it is a dump with a freeway buzzing through the main lobby, that at least two other Fodorites have stayed there and loved it. Many others have been turned on to Luxury Link, including you, LizF, and others have been turned onto the South Luangwa National Park and Zambia. For that, I make no apologies.
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Feb 17th, 2004, 10:12 AM
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Well, I have friends who I have recommended the Twelve Apostles to based on your recommendation, and they loved it. Your research is well done, your itineraries well planned and your opinions well thought out, so I felt confident in recommending a place that you raved about.
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Feb 17th, 2004, 10:12 AM
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Rocco-
I apologize if I hurt your feelings. I thought a word to the wise would be sufficient. Next time I will keep my opinion to myself. Sorry that I was misunderstood. Liz
 
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Feb 17th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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Liz,

Believe me, I am as thick-skinned as they come and can take a lot.

No offense was taken, and I really appreciate your concern. Likewise, please do not take my response in the wrong way and always feel free to share your concerns and opinions to me in the future. Thanks.
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Feb 17th, 2004, 10:27 AM
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Roccco:

While I've only been to Africa a couple of times, I have traveled extensively and in the process used the services of tour operators. Also, as a labor and employment attorney whose firm represents contractors, among others, I have wide-ranging experience with the bidding process.

Thus, some important distinctions between you, as a contractor, and the tour operator:

1. You, the contractor, know you are in a bidding process. The tour operator may not.
2. Typically, a contractor bids on a job with fixed, not shifting, parameters. Once the bids are in, that's it. Tour operators can be, and often are, subject to countless changes in itineraries, personal requests, etc. There is no guaranteed endgame.
3. The tour operator works with infinitely smaller margins than the typical contractor. A contractor knows that the bidding process is a significant part of the cost of doing business. Not true for the tour operator.
4. More often than not, contractors - particularly public works contractors - work with clients who do business in the same general vicinity and neighborhood. The parties know each other. The tour operator is burdened with lookie loos, one-time shoppers, and a largely anonymous clientele, particularly on the web and through email.

I think thit_cho made the essential point: You are willing to put in the kind of time and effort that most of us would just as soon farm out and pay for. I'm willing to spend a few dollars for someone else's experience. Frankly, my view is that while I never like to be gouged, I spend far less time worrying about saving a few bucks than I do about the quality of the experience. I have a dear friend who judges everything by what it costs. So while he remains a great friend, we no longer travel together because his preoccupation with money ruins the trip for me.

None of this is to say that you should be any less prudent than you already are. I do think, however, that it is reasonable to expect the tour operator to exercise similar prudence in running his business.

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Feb 17th, 2004, 10:28 AM
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Well, Roccco, I too have followed you various postings about safaris to Africa, and having planned three of my own working directly over the internet, on the lodges' websites, and with 2 agents in America and 3 in S. Africa, I have never experienced what I think you're attempting to describe. But I do regret you've had such a bad experience. May I make one observation, and please by all means disagree, if you wish: but your tone has at times been rather imperious, and you've exhibited a bit of a tendancy of flaunting your travel style. All in all, you strike me as a decent person, to be sure, trying to be of aid, but one with rather a low tolerance level. Nothing personal, to be sure, just obserbations, and I may be entirely wrong (it won't be the first time).
 
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Feb 17th, 2004, 11:52 AM
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Steveboy,

>1. You, the contractor, know you are in a bidding process. The tour operator may not.

Usually, I tell the tour operator that I require their very best pricing and that I intend to go with the operator with the best pricing.

>2. . Typically, a contractor bids on a job with fixed, not shifting, parameters. Once the bids are in, that's it. Tour operators can be, and often are, subject to countless changes in itineraries, personal requests, etc. There is no guaranteed endgame.

I welcome requoting a job as it means that I am still in consideration for the work. I would rather submit a revised quote anyday over not receiving an opportunity to do so.

>3. The tour operator works with infinitely smaller margins than the typical contractor. A contractor knows that the bidding process is a significant part of the cost of doing business. Not true for the tour operator.

Why do you assume that the tour operators margins are so small? I was able to get the price for half what it was being offered by most operators.

Do these operators lack the ability to ask the lodges for a discount, the same way that I did? If the tour operator WAS able to get the same prices as I did, it would be looking at a 100% profit margin!

>4. More often than not, contractors - particularly public works contractors - work with clients who do business in the same general vicinity and neighborhood. The parties know each other. The tour operator is burdened with lookie loos, one-time shoppers, and a largely anonymous clientele, particularly on the web and through email.

Hey, that is the nature of the beast. They do not have to worry about workers compensation, about one of their agents being killed on a jobsite accident, do not need to worry whether or not the next governor, or in my case govehna, is going to slash public works construction funding, etc.

I signed up for this, just as they signed up for their line of work. If it means that much to them, put a cap of a couple quotes before charging a "travel planning fee", as some agents have done.

Norrisley: I have never had a bad experience with an operator prior to this and it's not like this ruined my day or anything. Most operators have been very generous and are most understanding when I book with another operator. In this case I booked directly with Star of Africa.

Some places, like Kafunta, will not offer any discount for a direct booking, at least in my case, and in those occasions, I am more than happy to hand it over to an operator, so long as the rates do not exceed the rack rates listed on the lodges website.
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Feb 17th, 2004, 12:48 PM
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Roccco,

Firstly I think that you had better understand that there is a huge difference between tour operating and quoting to do public works. Heaven forbid the day arrives where these two vocations are based on the same principles. )

Here are my comments on some of your remarks to Steveboy and Norrisley both of whom I agree with wholeheartedly in all they say.


>1. You, the contractor, know you are in a bidding process. The tour operator may not.

>> Usually, I tell the tour operator that I require their very best pricing and that I intend to go with the operator with the best pricing.

BRAVO. So with that said does that not give the operator the right to pull out of the dealings whenever he wants to especially if he knows and feels that the bidder is making misuse of his services.

___________

>2. . Typically, a contractor bids on a job with fixed, not shifting, parameters. Once the bids are in, that's it. Tour operators can be, and often are, subject to countless changes in itineraries, personal requests, etc. There is no guaranteed endgame.

>> I welcome requoting a job as it means that I am still in consideration for the work. I would rather submit a revised quote anyday over not receiving an opportunity to do so.

How many times would you requote before you eventually tell the contractor to disappear? Whatever you answer dont tell me that you will requote endlessly!

___________


>3. The tour operator works with infinitely smaller margins than the typical contractor. A contractor knows that the bidding process is a significant part of the cost of doing business. Not true for the tour operator.

>>Why do you assume that the tour operators margins are so small? I was able to get the price for half what it was being offered by most operators.

The question should rather be put to you Roccco as to why do you assume that operators all work on 100% margins. I can assure you that most operators do not all work on high margins and that is why their life expectancy in the world of tour operating is so short. Furthermore your half price deals will always exist especially as time drags on and places start standing empty. Operators work on fixed pre-periods as well as rates and cannot always depend on these specials that you attain and talk of.

___________


>Do these operators lack the ability to ask the lodges for a discount, the same way that I did? If the tour operator WAS able to get the same prices as I did, it would be looking at a 100% profit margin!

The answer to this is EXACTLY where the nub of your problem lies in that it is "YES they lack the ability to do so". The reason is that establishments deal with many operators and have a standard rate and deal with most if not all. Once the deal has been set thats it. You confuse the fact that you are hunting up specials which exist for a reason and that is the places you visit are empty. Operators do not work on specials they work on set deals that are decided a year in advance and are NOT changeable. By the way your favourite the Apostles as an example is virtually permanently at a low level of occupancy.

____________


>4. More often than not, contractors - particularly public works contractors - work with clients who do business in the same general vicinity and neighborhood. The parties know each other. The tour operator is burdened with lookie loos, one-time shoppers, and a largely anonymous clientele, particularly on the web and through email.

>>Hey, that is the nature of the beast. They do not have to worry about workers compensation, about one of their agents being killed on a jobsite accident, do not need to worry whether or not the next governor, or in my case govehna, is going to slash public works construction funding, etc.


HELLO!!! Roccco what century are you living in? In South Africa operators have workmans compensation (They employ staff to you know), tax payments, insurance coverage, responsibility for tourists being hurt, injured or whatever else while on tour and believe me they need to worry intensely about what government is doing to them with regard to who they may or may not employ, what they may or may not charge etc etc. Please Roccco you surprise me with your comments in this regard!

_______________


>I signed up for this, just as they signed up for their line of work. If it means that much to them, put a cap of a couple quotes before charging a "travel planning fee", as some agents have done.

Roccco this statement proves to me that you know very little about tour operating. How can you put a cap on discussions for a tour? Some tours can take one email to finalise while others could go on for 20 emails. The problem lies in not the amount of quotes but the continuous haggling of the client with regard to price. At some stage the operators say thats it! Ever heard of a Mr.Berry ?

________________



>>I have never had a bad experience with an operator prior to this and it's not like this ruined my day or anything. Most operators have been very generous and are most understanding when I book with another operator. In this case I booked directly with Star of Africa.

Thats good to hear and maybe it is because you handled them better than I summise you handled Mr.Berry (I say this judging from the tone of your mail to him)

________________

>>Some places, like Kafunta, will not offer any discount for a direct booking, at least in my case, and in those occasions, I am more than happy to hand it over to an operator, so long as the rates do not exceed the rack rates listed on the lodges website.

I have no problem with this but then with that said why cant you always do things this way.

Just my twopence worth to the debate.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
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Feb 17th, 2004, 01:05 PM
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Roccco, come on over to the "Menstruation" post -- its a lot more welcoming. Oh, how I wish I was clever enough to come up with a good pun, but I'll leave that to the rest of you...
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Feb 17th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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Yes, this is a challenging period for Roccco. (well, you asked)
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Feb 17th, 2004, 02:23 PM
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Feb 17th, 2004, 02:35 PM
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Steveboy,

I know my cycle and I schedule accordingly!

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Feb 17th, 2004, 02:41 PM
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Selwyn,

The bottom line is how much a person is willing to pay and how much time a tour operator an operator is willing to allocate to any individual prospective customer.

I will say that this response from the disgruntled tour operator was issued only after I had already informed them of my booking with the Star Of Africa.

Sour grapes, that's all.

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Feb 17th, 2004, 02:58 PM
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Roccco,

I agree with your bottom line analysis with the one proviso that both parties respect each other at all times.

Your comment "I will say that this response from the disgruntled tour operator was issued only after I had already informed them of my booking with the Star Of Africa" could well be true but it did startle me somewhat. You never ever mentioned this in your first mails and it definitely does not come over as such from Mr.Berry's mails. Thus I am assuming that the "Sour grapes, that's all" comment is a sour feeling from your side. ONLY JOKING!

I think it is time for you to get on looking for some more great travel deals as you have so avidly done in the past and let all Fodorites know about them as they happen. A small piece of advice is dont rub up the tour operators who you deal with in the wrong way as you might find a dead horse head under your plane seat one day

Hang in there Roccco.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa



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Feb 17th, 2004, 03:08 PM
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Selwyn,

You mean you haven't seen my latest fiasco?! (At least I will not have an opportunity to beat up on the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong or on the hotels in Australia, and India, even at its best, is so reasonable that I won't even make an effort to beat up on the very reasonable quotes that I have already received)

VACATION PLANNING ? 2005

2/23/05 Depart LAX

2/24/05 En Route

2/25/05 Arrive Hong Kong (3). The Peninsula.

2/26/05 The Peninsula.

2/27/05 The Peninsula. Hong Kong vicinity ? China Coast Marathon.

2/28/05 Hong Kong ? Delhi (overnight)

3/01/05 Arrive Delhi at 5AM. Transfer to Agra (1). Amar Vilas

3/02/05 Transfer to Jaipur ? Raj Vilas (3)

3/03/05 Raj Vilas

3/04/05 Raj Vilas

3/05/05 Transfer to Ranthambhore ? Vanya Vilas (3)

3/06/05 Ranthambhore

3/07/05 Ranthambhore

3/08/05 Transfer to Delhi ? Imperial Hotel (2)

3/09/05 Imperial Hotel

3/10/05 Depart Delhi ? Hong Kong ? Sydney

3/11/05 Arrive Sydney. Transfer to Katoomba (3) ? Lilianfels Blue Mountains.

3/12/05 Lilanfels Blue Mountains ? 6 Foot Track (Trail) Ultra Marathon (45K).

3/13/05 Lilanfels Blue Mountains

3/14/05 Transfer to Sydney (4). Rydges Jamison Hotel (formerly Le Meridien).

3/15/05 Rydges Jamison Hotel. Hunter Valley Winetasting Excursion?

3/16/05 Rydges Jamison Hotel.

3/17/05 Rydges Jamison Hotel.

3/18/05 Depart Sydney-Hong Kong?-LAX

3/19/05 - Arrive LAX
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