Use caution when booking

Aug 2nd, 2003, 04:07 PM
Posts: n/a
Liz -

For as many people who are booking on their own, a larger percentage still don't have the time or want to bothered with having to make the phone calls, send faxes or emails to coordinate all the details. So that is what the TA or Tour Operator is doing for you. Accordingly, there is some overhead built into the prices they charge. Larger tour operators have larger overhead and, therefore, charge more.

There are even some operators, A&K as one, that charges $100/person to plan an independent itinerary different than those in their line of tours, said fee deducted if you book with them. If you don't book the trip, you forfeit the fee.

As to how TA get paid or destination specific tour operators - they take their commission before (it never leaves the TA office) paying the hotels, lodges, tour operators, ets.

Assume your local TA (ABC Travel) uses company like A&K - the TA knows ahead of time what % of commission a tour operator pays, i.e. say 15% for A&K, others might be 12%, 10% or less. And most firms like A&K have an office overseas, while other TO work with an operator on the other end - so there is a percentage paid all down the line.

Let's use as example: Many of us have seen the prices on - price per nite is $370/person - if you book direct with camp you pay $370. If you use a TA to book with a TO here in states, the TA gets 10% of $370 ($37); the TO gets 10% ($37); their operator in Africa takes another 10%($37) and down the line for the company that provides driver/guides may get 7% ($26) - then the balance of $233 goes to camp/lodge.

From that the camp/lodge pays salaries, food, linens, taxes, etc. and whatever is left is their profit.

Then there are companies that are big producers that send alot of business to a particular camp/lodge, hotel, car rental agency, that get more favorable rates (lower) or bigger commissions.

The cruise business is specifically known for that, a reason why, with the downturn in the travel industry, many agencies are just doing cruises. Or if you ask a TA to book a small B&B in Europe, they hedge, as they know there won't be anything in it for them. A good TA will do it, but many steer you in another direction.

Big producers also have the advantage of being able to negotiate special prices and, therefore, have more leeway in possibly lowering a price for a particular client.

So even if after you booked your trip to Kenya at a given price, and because of slow business camps choose to lower prices to increase business, you won't get the reduction.

At one time in the airline industry if you booked a ticket at $500 and then prior departure, the price went down to $350 you could have ticket rewritten at the lower price and you saved $150 - but no more, now the airlines charge you a fee to change anything, and those fees keep increasing.

Everyone along the way takes their little piece of the pie.

That's why you see in cancellation policies a % that isn't returned to you depending on how close to departure date - a reason for trip insurance. If you cancel after you've made final payment, you can forfeit up to the full amount of your trip. It's basically a penalty, as all the services you needed, now go unused and the service has to try to rebook the room, car, driver, etc.

Also, as some posters have indicated having problems once at their destination of some sort or another. If they've booked this themselves, they have to resolve the problem. If you used a TA or TO, you have someone to complain to and work on resolving the issue for you.

When we were in The Seychelles there had been a mixup with our return flight. While it was correct in the computer, we didn't have documentation and when we inquired in Kenya they didn't have it in their computer, so we called our TA over Thanksgiving weekend, who on Monday faxed the NWA station manager at Kenyatta Int'l, who indicated he had correct info, but faxed the correct printout to my TA, who in turn faxed it to us in the middle of the Indian Ocean. And because the error was originally made by my TA, and even though she corrected it, still sent us $300 to cover any fee we might be hit with at the airport. She earned every bit of commissions she made on our trip, even if part of it was returned to us.

Like everything else, we have choices on how we wish to book - but eventually everyone has to get paid.
Aug 2nd, 2003, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,097

Let me explain exactly how these agent rates work.

The Safari camps, places of stay, hotels etc have two prices. The one is the rack rate while the other is called a STO rate (Special Tour Operator) rate. Operators are not supposed to divulge these rates however it is common knowledge that they obtain these special prices. The STO rate is different at each establishment in terms of markup and this is where I certainly agree with much of what you say with regard to advice on this website Liz. Let me explain. Some venues make it very attractive for operators to make bookings with them by offering bigger incentives than others. Guess where these operators will send you as the visitor immaterial of the quality fo the establishment? #39;(

Now heres a trick to beat this all. Do you know that you can register as a travel agent on the net? Its very simple.

Go to

and become a travel agent for $495.
You simply fill out a form, pay your bucks and voila you are an agent! Once you have done this you will obtain all the relevant benefits that the agents obtain themselves by simply making your own bookings and asking for the STO rate. I hear everyone saying "WOW but will I make back the $495 through the STO rates?" The answer is YES if you follow the below plan.

USE THE FODORS WEBSITE. Speak to each other and all you need to do is find 5 or more regular travellers on the site to all club together for one of you to be the agent. The agent then makes the bookings for the other party and btw any of you can make the bookings by simply quoting the agent name and number. AS a startup all that it will take is for one or two regular Fodorites to take the lead and start the club. I cant see why you cant call yourselves by a name eg. the Fodors buddies or whatever and talking about yoursleves openly on the Fodors page. I also dont believe that this goes against the Fodros board edotorial policy however I am open to correction on the issue. Obviously if it goes against policy then my idea is a bad one and cannot be implemented. By speaking of yourselves on the Fodors Page you could bring new members to the club and obvioulsy the more members the better it is. Using this plan you all become your own agent and establish your own agent rates thus removing the problem that you are trying to make all aware of Liz.

Now I am sure that I am opening a whole new can of worms with this one and I am sure it is going to spark a further debate on this whole subject so lets hear from you all.

Liz happily I must comment that from what seemed to be an obscure opening mail, where in one response you were even accused of talking to the likes of ET (that really was an uncalled for mail response methinks) something pretty valuable seems to be coming out of this all that I am sure will help everyone. 8-)

Let the debate begin.....

Selwyn Davidowitz
[email protected]
Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 05:52 PM
Posts: n/a

THANK YOU!!!! Very detailed and good explanation. What happens after the agent(s) take their commission is their business. They've earned it and they deserve it.

This is what I tried to bring out, not to hurt anyone, but if an agent is paid a commission, let him/her EARN that commission. Don't send me to someone where I have done all the planning, all the research, checked for vacancies, etc., then charge me an EXTRA $1500 for sending one email.

So when you book with a company, or camp, be sure that your name was not submitted to that agent unbeknownst to you, because you may be charged more than the going rate for nothing. I still don't know why this happened, but it did honestly happen twice on this upcoming trip. As Sandi explained, those agents are to be paid by the CAMPS, not to pad the bill whatever they can get away with. Whew!!!! Now do you all see?

Oh Sandi, before I embarass myself, thank you for explaining that unlike airfares used to be, once you book and the rate goes down, standard practice is NOT to lower your rates. I just thought they would have. Liz
Aug 2nd, 2003, 05:58 PM
Posts: n/a
So finally you came in on the white charger to aid the maiden in distress. I'll have to admit, quite a few here had a good time at my expense last night, but I just hung in there to get my point across. At least I won't have to change my screen name to post here and I have never changed it to post on my own behalf. (Must I explain this to anyone) :->

However, as to the new can of worms you opened, I'll let you handle those posts. I did what I wanted, and I am through here on this thread. As of NOW.

Thank you Selwyn. I have missed you tremendously!!!! Even though I will never get to Capetown, if you ever get to Botswana and I happen to be there, we must sit around the fire into the night bending our elbows and talking and laughing until the fire turns to embers. Sigh. Liz
Aug 3rd, 2003, 02:14 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 32
Re: "Travel Agent in a Box" (The link in Selwyn's post)

Before you get all excited and send in your $495- you might want to check this link:

And you might want to do a Google search on "card mills + travel."
You might come away with a very different impression than Selwyn's link portrays

Then make an informed decision. As Liz says- use caution when booking.
Sundance is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 06:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,097

Thanks for the website that you have sent us to. Even though I agree wholeheartedly about exercising caution on any of these travel agent in a box deals having now looked at the webpage that you have suggested my opinion has not changed about this still being a great way to obtain good deals. Let me explain why I say so.

May I remind you that this is the Africa and Middle East travel page and not the America travel page. I did not suggest that one obtains the travel agent status so as to obtain cheap air flights etc as per what the "Travel in a box" website talks of. I suggested the travel agent membership SPECIFICALLY for South Africa travel. I have had 4 people travel with me in the past who have paid the $495 and have made great gains from doing this when travelling in South Africa (NOT the USA).

To illustrate further let me take you through an excersize of real numbers.

If 5 Fodorites clubbed together to take on one travel agency license then it would cost them $100 each. If they each visited SA and stayed at one of the main upmarket safari lodges I will virtually guarantee you that they will obtain a minimum of a 10% discount. The lodge will take their business on at a discounted rate with open arms. The lodges in question charge in the vicinity of $1000 for two people per night so if you stay at the lodge for 2 nights you would already be covering your annual subscription via your first night discount and then you would obtain another $100 discount on the second night of stay. Also bear in mind that this gain only comes from the safari lodge expense; what about all the other accommodation bookings that you will be making when you visit SA? I say again that in South Africa (thats all that I can talk of with a level of expertise) production of your agent number WILL achieve a lower rate at accommodation venues.

This system does work and I have seen it happen in front of my own eyes. The only very small snag is to find the 5 partners to the club and that is where the Fodors page comes in quite handily.

Another fact that the said website mentions is that travel agents know the ropes, work hard and dont just become agents overnight. I agree with this when it comes to a good agent however what about the travellers who do things themselves such as the ones who read this webpage. There is no better advice on the net or even from travel agents than the Fodors webpage when it comes to travelling in South Africa and I feel that as Fodorites we can be proud of what we achieve in this regard on this page. Thus as far as all this wonderful advice is concerned inclusive of the quick attained travel agent status all that I can say is use it before you lose it. -

Selwyn Davidowitz
[email protected]
Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 08:43 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 32
Thanks for the clarification.

Sundance is offline  
Aug 4th, 2003, 01:57 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 596
Liz, thank you so much for this information. It now makes sense. Yes, posters should always be cautious of people here asking to email you. Some of them are terrific and well worth communicating with of course. Just be aware that a few have an agenda. The clue is that they will be relentless in finding out who you booked your trip with. They might also want your first name and the city you live in. They send out quick, rushed emails often with typos (or, alternately, with long blocks of pasted text copied from another source) because they are covering so much territory in private email and lists and other travel boards. It will at first look like they are "helping" you because of the overload of information they forward your way, some of which they haven't read themselves and then they want you to summarize. But then they begin to hound you daily with the same question even though they have no plans to take a trip to Africa. Liz, you have answered the question of what they are really getting out of this - money.
Clematis is offline  
Aug 4th, 2003, 07:53 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 252
Seems that the discussion here mirrors the securities industry in some ways. There was a time when there was little choice but to use a full-service broker and incur fairly significant charges when buying and selling stock. Of course, you can now trade online for a minimal fee. People who do their own research and are willing to make their own decisions do this at significant savings in fees, but must also accept the responsibilities for poor decisions.

The idea of receiving Travel Agent prices at top reserves sounds very appealing. Certainly, there are a group of travelers on this site that do all their own research and most of their own decision-making. It sounds like something to consider.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Aug 5th, 2003, 06:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,213
Thank you Liz for bringing this up and also to those of you who have provided clarification and information.

All much appreciated.

Kavey is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:16 PM.