Use agent or go direct?

Jun 16th, 2010, 09:28 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2010
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Use agent or go direct?

For safaris in Botswana n hotels cape town n Vic falls is is best to book direct or use an agent?
Jreinho is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 01:38 PM
  #2  
 
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Some of the safari camps in Botswana will not even work directly with clients but require an agent. For Cape Town, direct worked fine for me. Vic Falls will likely be coordinated with your safari, so I'd let the agent do it. But you can check on pricing for Vic Falls to compare.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 03:05 PM
  #3  
 
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Atravelynn, with Sandi and Patty off having fun I guess it's all up to you.
long2travel is offline  
Jun 17th, 2010, 11:04 PM
  #4  
 
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Hi there

I always make use of a tour operator to book our safaris and I always make use of the same company since they've done a stirling job with each and every one of our safaris - from a rather low budget one right up to our specialist safaris. I make use of Africa Direct - their website is www.africadirect.co.za

Kind regards
living4safari is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 03:49 AM
  #5  
 
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I do it all myself and save considerably.
pixelpower is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 05:00 AM
  #6  
 
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in general, you can usually get a better price working direct if you are on a lower per day cost trip. many of the less expensive properties, and especially hotels, at the four star and below level will have last minute auctions or better prices on their web site than what an agent is WILLING to offer you. for example, my company has a contract with South Africa National Parks but the amount of money we can earn on commisison versus their published rates makes it un-profitable to sell the rest camps at the same price as their web site so we charge MORE. there is a lot of questions and time involved in helping a first time safari goer get ready to go so the low commission offered by SANPARKS can make it a non-profit situation unless we charge a service fee or excess mark-up (beyond rack/published rates).

conversely, most of the luxury lodges, especially in botswana, will be less expensive to book with an agent unless you literally show-up at their office last minute in maun and book something (hoping for availability). for five star hotels in africa, the bigger tour operators in the US (not sure about europe) will usually have cheaper rates than web sites prices, AMEX, GDS, or even direct booking prices. the royal livingstone is a good example of this or the cape grace. like lynn said, some safari lodges do not even take direct bookings (desert & delta, wilderness). some have an openly disclosed network of preferred safari agents (like kwando which lists them on their web site). some have their own sales people (like &beyond). you always hear rumors of people getting better deals booking direct (when possible) but i don't think you will find too many specific examples where people will tell you where they went and how much they paid on an open forum like this.

you really have to decide what excites you. there is some research that says a first time safari goer that plans and books everything themselves will spend 40-50 hours doing so. this includes the time to book each property one at a time on the internet, gather documents together, research, etc. this can be fun and exciting and it may save you some money if you are not on a luxury lodge itinerary (5-15% may be a typical savings). if you are a consultant (lawyer, accountant, etc) that bills by the hour and values your personal time then this may not be the best way to spend your time. then again, you will be in control. but, if you find a truly exceptional safari consultant with reasonable rates, you will be worry free.

BTW - the owner of Africa Direct is Tanya Koetze. She is really good.

Craig Beal
Safari_Craig is offline  
Jun 18th, 2010, 06:54 AM
  #7  
 
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Walk into Maun and make a booking! If you are particularly picky of your camps, then it's best to book in advance (particularly if it is a very small camp) and you plan to travel at specific times of the year like Christmas/New Year, July/August coinciding with Holidays in the West, or some camps which are a hit in the green season and small (like for example., Little Kwara) -- still, if it's only one room you need. May not be a problem.

In almost all of my trips, I have met last minute booking guests at the camps in Botswana.

If you need either a private vehicle and/or specific guide - advisable to book in advance for fear of lack of availablity.

There are plenty of fantastic local travel agents in Maun too ..... and they could either book for you in advance or last minute when you walk in!
HariS is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 08:39 AM
  #8  
 
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I hope to use Hari's suggested method some day, but then I am not picky at this point where I stay or what the area's highlights are. I also don't require a private vehicle. For my first several trips to Botswana, I had certain camps in mind and would have been disappointed if none of those worked out because I was booking last minute.

Good luck and enjoy Southern Africa.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 09:38 AM
  #9  
 
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It depends. If you have the time (researching takes time) and a flexible schedule, you might be able to book on your own. In my case, I'm coming from the US, have a finite length of time and usually choose to book through an agent.

For my trip to South Africa in September 2010, I have chosen to go with a South African tour operator. As this was my sixth safari but I was going with a friend who was a newbie, I had specific requests about which camps, budget, type of accommodations, location, transfers to and from, etc. I told the operator exactly what I desired and gave her several options including one where I checked and the camp wasn't available for one of the nights we were requesting. She came back with several different proposals. We wanted to try the camp with the one night that wasn't available so she put a hold on that camp and also put a hold on our second choice while we waited for confirmation. When the first camp didn't come through, we were securely set up for the second camp. She also worked out several transfer methods and had information about charters we were not even aware of. And we are paying the same amount through a secure website that we would have if we booked the safari portion on our own without the hassles.

And as Hari mentioned, certain camps especially those in Botswana will only book through tour operators.

Good luck. You will LOVE Africa and I doubt this will be your only trip. I am already planning my next adventure to Namibia.

Deb
one2travel is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 08:10 PM
  #10  
 
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Lynn,

Think of it from this angle for just a one room requirement...... Think of the more popular camps there are always options aplenty.

Hari
HariS is offline  
Jun 19th, 2010, 08:32 PM
  #11  
 
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"For my first several trips to Botswana, I had certain camps in mind and would have been disappointed if none of those worked out because I was booking last minute." Lynn

Think of it from this angle .......

1.) Chitabe and/or Lediba - game viewing all same
2.) Vumbura (2 camps), LV - same viewing areas. Yes, price varies - but, still cheap on walk in
3.) Duma Tau and Savute - something or the other? (I didn't include Selinda in this example, as I think it's not an equal alternate in terms of the viewing)
4.) Kwara and Little Kwara - If game viewing is your criteria all same....... Hopefully Kwara main will get a make over soon.
5.) Lagoon and Lebala - Okay all different game area and sightings do not overlap usually, but, for a first time visitor it won't make a difference ....... and for the first time in History, Dogs are denning in the mopane on the Lebala side (not the Lagoon pack, this is another pack).
6.) Duba Plains - I can't talk about. That's a unique situation on it's own.

Hari
HariS is offline  
Jun 20th, 2010, 02:05 PM
  #12  
 
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You can book via your agent or direct - prices are more or less the same!

Make sure your agent knows the products he/she is selling! Too many agents haven't been to the destination and simply don't know what they are selling!

Ask them when they visited last the property you are interested in.

That alone will limit the agents and makes sure you get what you are after !

Happy planning!

SV
spassvogel is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 07:10 AM
  #13  
 
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SV,

One more point to ask your agent, "did you go on the activities at the camp during your visit or did you just check out the lodgings and dinings" ........
HariS is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 07:27 AM
  #14  
 
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HariS - you are sooooo right!

Once ran into a bunch of KUONI reps in Kenya. They did "all over Kenya" in 6 days/5 nights. Having meals at 3 different places/day rushing by car or aircraft from A via C over M to Z. HORRIBLE!
They either are excellent at keeping their books in order 24/7 or mix up everything in the end.

SV
spassvogel is offline  
Jun 21st, 2010, 12:18 PM
  #15  
 
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HariS has a good point. Be careful with an agents "experience". I am an agent and many of my trips involve what is called a "site inspection". This is exactly as HariS describes. You swoop into camp, see the main lounges, dining area, a few tents, then take off again. Fortuantely, I do stay 2-3 nights on some visits, expecially when I go to Botswana with my family.

Craig Beal
Safari_Craig is offline  

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