Why have Wilderness Safari agents bid rates?

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Oct 8th, 2008, 12:06 PM
  #1
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Why have Wilderness Safari agents bid rates?

I'm looking around trying to plan safari for 2009. Would maybe like to go back to Botswana and heard good reports on the Wilderness Safaris (WS) camps Savuti and Chitabe Lediba. So I went to WS web site to investigate rates. But, no, you have to fill out a form and one of their agents will contact you. There are about 12 agents in USA? So, did that and heard from one agent and got his safari proposals. I've since heard that the costs quoted for the same WS camps varies significantly from agent to agent. My source (no names) has experienced this having dealt with, purchased WS safaris with, several WS USA agents.

Anyone else confirm this? If so how did it influence your decisions?

Why, I ask must I get "quotes" from perhaps four WS agents to feel comfortable that I'm getting the best deal? Planning a safari is difficult enough without this added aggravation from WS. And having to field telephone calls from several agents. It is enough to turn me off from WS safari camps.

regards - tom

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Oct 8th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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Can't comment on that aspect of the WS organisation, Tom, but when I was getting prices for an itinerary involving three back-to-back WS safaris through their agent in NZ, I enquired about a possible multi-safari discount and was told that they don't offer such a thing. It seems that they are content to sit back and allow the business to come to them, rather than offer any incentive to book with them right through.
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Oct 8th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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Probably, what, 97% of safaris are booked through agents, not directly with the safari camps. Understandable, for one, the camps don't have the staff to handle totally all inquiries and bookings. I've used the same agent for all of my bookings over the last four years. Still, I can internet the camps I want and see their rack rates. It's no mystery as to what my costs will be. I don't know what the typical commission is for the agent. I doubt if it's more than 10%? Anyone? So one agent or another could give a little $$ incentive but not a lot. However, my impression of WS quotes is that they can vary by as much as 30% between agents. This is a huge amount of $$$ flexibility for my costs.

And kiwi-rob, I was told that you do get a discount by booking multiple WS camps on the same safari. If that is what you meant.

regards - tom
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Oct 8th, 2008, 04:02 PM
  #4
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Why don't you just use your normal agent?

Agents get from WS, between 20-30% comission depending on how many bed nights they book in a given year. Why do you think so many forum members have been tempted to start creating your dream trips!

Another consideration, certain agents will get preferential rates because of the volume of business that they bring to the company.
 
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Oct 8th, 2008, 05:45 PM
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the rates DEFINATELY should not differ at all!

something wrong with the TA and wilderness might not be amused about that!

div
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Oct 8th, 2008, 05:53 PM
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Tom,

I agree that it's a bit of a problem getting rates on the Wlderness camps. I assume that they have decided to only go through agents because they don't want the hassle of dealing with the "public". Anyway, it's a formula that seems to work for them. I use the E-Gnu website as a budget guideline.

I believe that you could use your regular agent. My limited understanding however is that your agent would most likely be a second tier to another agent that does a large volume with Wilderness, so I'm not sure how that would affect the overall rate given to you.

I had four agents price out the same itinerary two years ago and there was about a 15 percent difference (which to me is quite significant), so definitely get several quotes. Obviously, it has to be the exact same itinerary for a direct comparison. Although most of the 5 paw camps are all the same rate and interchangeable (except for Duba).

Our favorite 5 paw is Little Vumbura, but it fills up fast. We did not have very good game viewing at Chitabe, although others always rave about it, so maybe just our bad luck. We did love our sleep out night there at one of the hides.
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Oct 8th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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We have received very different quotes from several different Wilderness agents. One agent told us that while they were a Wilderness Agent, they in fact didn't get along very well with the Wilderness Organization and perhaps didn't receive the optimal pricing. This in fact was supported by what another agent recently told us. The only thing to do is to get several quotes. It may be that each agent neogiates their own price structure based upon the total business placed with Wilderness during the year. We have experienced 10-15% price differences for the identical safari.
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Oct 8th, 2008, 06:23 PM
  #8
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All - thanks for the confirmation on what I've heard. And thanks for reference to e-gnu.

Right, I could use my regular agent. I suppose he would still have to deal with a WS agent. But to my advantage my TA might know the best WS agent to deal with. (Then again might not ). As said above, I find it off-putting. But, hey, it's WS business and they can run it that way if they want to.

regards - tom
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Oct 8th, 2008, 11:11 PM
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Hi all,

I would like to present an agent's viewpoint on this, as it is certainly a very valid question, especially for repeat safari travelers..

Firstly, please do not consider that a WS-based safari (or any other operator-based safaris) is a commodity. It isn't.

Why?

Because even for a seasoned safari-goer, there are myriad things that can differ and also things that can go "wrong" up to, during, and after the point where you are in the hands of WS/Sefofane.

Transfers, Pre-tour docs, time spent on the phone arranging or advising where the game had been lately - no guest knows it all, nor any agent, but a good agent does provide extra value and may be worth paying more for, if you are getting good value. Spending more or less for the "same" itinerary does not mean you come home with the same experience, let me be very clear on that.

"Little" things can make or break the trip. Those little things can easily be viewed as big things on return.

Leverage differs by agent in terms of getting certain "extras" - guides, specific rooms, special activities like bush brunches, dinners, etc.

The WS idea is to support their agent network and minimize price competition by setting "recommended selling prices." They do not strictly enforce this for reasons that it is impossible. Also, these prices are only price per camp per night and this does not consider the discounts for staying multiple nights at WS camps.

Most agents, like us, have pricing guidelines that we use, that are based on overall spend, whether a client has booked previously, and also markups will differ based on country and camp and can be a little bit flexible.

WS have a limited list of agents that may book directly with them and there are differences in the rates they receive. What these agents mark up their rates is up to the agent, but the idea from WS' perspective is that there will be minimal price competition. Those with more preferential rates obviously have more leeway in their markups.

If you've been on a million and one safaris, well... find the cheapest price if you think that will work for you. If not, take advantage of the most knowledgeable agent you can find and make sure you get value from them in terms of matching you to the best experience possible.

A trip costing $5,000 to $10,000 per person and more is NOT a commodity and the agent should make a BIG difference if you choose wisely,

James
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Oct 8th, 2008, 11:35 PM
  #10
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Thanks James for your perspective.

"advising where the game had been lately" - really? how is knowing the game situation in Oct of 2007 going to apply to Sep of 2008? Oct 2007 is when I need to make reservations for 2008 at many small popular camps.

I agree, there are a lot of little things, details, involved in a safari with multiple camps. And all of the air and land transfers need to be handled exactly right. And the agent deserves to be paid for their work and experience.

But I do not expect BIG things of the agent, only to get all of the details correct. This should not be difficult for an experienced agent. Given a set camp itinerary of the same three camps in Botswana, the basics and the details are the same. Why should there be a price differential of 15%? We're talking $1,500 for a $10,000 trip.

regards - tom

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Oct 8th, 2008, 11:54 PM
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Hi Tom,

Agree. Game will change in a year... if you are an experienced traveler, then u r right.

For a first time visitor it is different.

An agent charging a guest who is "experienced" a 15% margin over another agent's price, well this is substantial, I agree. No argument.

Repeat business is worth a discount though. We support our repeat guests as such.

Find an agent you can trust who will be honest and open with you - repeat trips will only help you.

Then you should be able to stop worrying over price and know you are doing better than looking elsewhere and also getting the best value.

Shopping around should be a waste of time if you are with the "right" agent.

James
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Oct 9th, 2008, 12:17 AM
  #12
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James, thanks again. Is there really one "right agent" for all of Africa? Many agents it seems, understandably, specialize in one area of Africa. I'm very happy with my agent, he specializes in Southern Africa. So when I asked him about Tanzania he recommended that I work with an agent such as Roy Safaris. I appreciate his candor in this.

Further, how do I find the "right agent"? I can't afford to try out different agents every year. Time and money is limited. Guess like I find the right attorney or doctor? Usually do that by referral from friends.

regards - tom
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Oct 9th, 2008, 12:33 AM
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Hi Tom,

No answer for that one, but u r on the right track IMO...

referrals are a great way. Guess I should not have used "best" as the adjective.

I mean "best" as one that you have and doesn't make you think you should look around for another.

Maybe see you out there one day!

James
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Oct 9th, 2008, 12:34 AM
  #14
 
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I've seen someone mentioning 20-30% commission. I've heard quite another figure. But I'm not going to start a war over that. Not here. Not now.

I also know why WS do not book directly; their operation is too big, and they really NEED agents to fill all their camps. Allowing direct bookings would be like working behind those agent's backs. Kinda like biting the hand that feeds you.

So while you may get a direct quote from a company with just one concession lease (whatever the country/area, 'cause I'm not only talking about the delta), you can be sure you will never get a direct quote from WS.

Ciao,

J.
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Oct 9th, 2008, 12:44 AM
  #15
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I have no problem with WS having a 100 agents. Just as I have no problem with Honda having 10,000 agents. But I don't like shopping Honda dealers for the best deal and I don't like shopping WS agents for the best deal.

regards - tom
ps - I know James, a safari is not a "commodity".
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Oct 9th, 2008, 12:44 AM
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Pixel,

Unless i am missing your question - I think it is that u do not understand why WS do not book directly, but only book through agents?

Is this what u r asking?
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Oct 9th, 2008, 01:01 AM
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Bottom line -

If a provider of any product (or service) adds more value than another, you should choose it over the other.

Not trying to talk down... just think that it is no different than one restaurant with good food over another - boils down to service.

Finding the best restaurant can be from critic reviews, referrals, or from your own experience.

Competition should favor those with best value for cost.

J
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Oct 9th, 2008, 01:24 AM
  #18
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A bit off topic but got this in response to an email 2009 rate question to CC Africa (another large safari company) -

"CC Africa is committed to providing our guests with outstanding service from our expert Safari Experience Specialists. As we gear towards offering even better service and product knowledge, we are all currently in training for the 09th to 12th October 2008. We will unfortunately not be able to respond to emails on these dates, but rest assured we will respond to your enquiry on Monday, 13th October 2008.

I trust that the above is in order, but please donít hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Many thanks and kind regards,

Chris Beadle
CC Africa Web Administrator"


Do they call not responding for four days "outstanding service"? I don't.

regards - tom
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Oct 9th, 2008, 01:52 AM
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Heh heh! Interesting comparison.

I saved several thousand pounds by shopping around different Honda dealers (and letting each one know the best price I had from the others also helped me encourage each one to give me their genuine lowest price... eventually)! When I chose which to buy through I took into account the displayed behaviour, knowledge level and general heplfulness as well as price, and also trusted my instinct (that the interactions had allowed me to build up) as to which salesman and sales centre suited me best.

Oh, and last time we were out on safari, we came across a pair of travellers who were on their 12th WS safari. They revealed that WS do let them book directly.
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Oct 9th, 2008, 02:30 AM
  #20
 
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James,

I have no question whatsoever. What makes you think I have a question?

I know perfectly why WS needs agents. I just explained why in my last post.

But I do question the 20-30% commission rate someone mentioned here. I heard it was a erm... a bit higher.

Ciao,

Jochen
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