Why have Wilderness Safari agents bid rates?

Oct 9th, 2008, 04:08 AM
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<<but I don't like shopping Honda dealers for the best deal>>

I'm not an expert, but I believe (at least in the US) antitrust regulators forced the automobile manufacturers to spin off the distributorships (which they at one time owned) to foster price competition -- so while you may not like shopping around at different dealers, its the competition that is "supposed to" work in the consumers' favor by forcing price competition.

When I bought a car, I shopped around and there were noticeable differences, and I was able to secure a more favorable price since I knew the prices offered by all of the area dealers.

thit_cho is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 06:02 AM
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I understand that WS gives remarkably high agents commisions hence the fact that they are often the only operator offered by some TA's.
Oct 9th, 2008, 06:42 AM
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Hi! Just to add to the existing information that has been given in all of the responses to your question! When an agent checks availability with WS, they (WS) will also give the agent a quote for the required stay. It is basically up to the agent to add a % commission. 20 - 30 % is too high in my opinion, and if I was booking the safari for myself, I would definitely take the time to get a couple of different quotes - it could mean a saving of about 15%!
AFRICA_DIRECT is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 07:01 AM
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I used to work for a mainstream UK tour operator. We had our own chain of high street travel agents but were also sold by independents.

I remember them bringing in a new policy of paying higher commissions to those who sold a higher volume of their product, what this effectively did was reduce the commission independents who sold the occasional product received.

Result was that some independents stopped offering customers genuine choice and best advice and started pushing product from operators such as us in order to hit our volume requirements. And that some independents stopped selling our product, though not many.

This interference in the business of independent agents lead many to close since the only reason many customers had gone to them was for their wider range of product and impartial advice.

Kavey is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 07:22 AM
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I think kavey may have hit the nail on the head. Why dosen't someone suggest getting a quote for identical safaris from a dozen agents, keeping all variables (dates, camps, etc.) the same. Might turn this into a really valuable thread. The Travel Agents out there wouldn't like it but hey-it's the power of the internet.
Temba is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 07:31 AM
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IMO opinion WS business strategy is all about minimising competition (maximising yield) and controlling the inventory.

We as safari consumers do not see our experience as a commodity, however the suppliers of the experience certainly do. They see it as the most perishable commodity around. Unlike a Honda, if it doesn't sell today you still have a shot of selling it tomorrow, an empty bed unoccupied and paid for tonight is revenue lost forever.

If WS were to allow all and sundry to book their product, they'd have to reduce their net rates to protect the entire distribution channel and at the end of the day not control the inventory.

It is not rocket science. They have their tired levels of agents in each source market who are essentially "bullied" into booking WS. Try and get that agent to deviate and include a lodge not marketed by Wilderness and you'll have many excuses, lodge is full, water didn't arrive so the game there is poor blah dee blah. And in conclusion if you stay at xyz WS camp, which is in the next concession, well the water is cooler, the staff are happier and the wildlife is pumping as if on steroids.. As JW notes above, they have benefits for keeping you on the WS circuit, long stay discounts and potentially for the agent better rates and of course more bookings over time equates to negotiating strength for the better net rates.

Oh and you'll get the, story about sefofane, radio contact with lodges, better welcome, no waiting at air strips and so on... really.

That is just my somewhat cynical view of a corporation that has raised the price umbrella way to high, that profits from our naivity, to the point that is monopolising an industry in Botswana.

Next year the story is going to be very different indeed, that is if there is anything left of Botswana after the fires have finished raging and all but burnt it to the ground. Many of us will simply be unable to afford the prices they are cahrging, their intermediary agents are going to fold and their precious unoccupied beds are going to lose them a ton of cash flow. We will for a short while be able to negotiate our own prices and length of stays at the camps that we have researched and like and will not need to be told by these experienced agents where we should go.

Sorry for the rant, but just got an unfathomable quote from one of the preferreds and no James, it was not your outfit.
mkhonzo is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 08:16 AM
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No need to apologise for your rant, I really enjoyed it. Much truth in your words. Perhaps outfits like Wilderness will have to rethink their marketing plan to accomodate repeat africa safari goers? Certainly they are going to need to do something to keep their camps full. The hedge fund managers and investment bankers are not going to be coming back for a long while.
Temba is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 09:03 AM
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The problem is that it is such a small community. Every time you ask a WS operator for a quote, they go back to WS for availability etc. They temporarily hold the space with your name and so WS knows how many operators you are talking to and lets them know that as well. We talked with a couple of operators when we were planning our trip and ended up losing space in one camp because they both held it and then released it in confusion. That same day, the space was gone. We ended up rearranging the trip to be able to stay there on different days. But when a place only has 10-12 beds and the same itinerary is asked for from several agents, they all know and let each other know.
mpkp is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 10:23 AM
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doesn't WS provide its agents with real-time online-booking?

i would expect that from such an high-end company.

divine54 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 10:49 AM
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That certainly explains a lot of the confusion that we recently faced. In the end, the winner in all this confusion is Wilderness. The agents are quick to "secure" a booking in your name even when you ask them simply for a quote during a time period which falls entirely within a single rate category, for example 4 consecutive days in June or July. I'm afraid the primary function of Wilderness is to "keep the beds full". They merely manage many of the camps under their marketing umbrella. It might be a mistake to credit them with much more then the role of a super booking agent and to view their mission as anything more noble then "keeping the beds occupied". In the meantime, get quotes from as many agents as you can and instruct them to Not hold space for you on a specific date.
Temba is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 12:03 PM
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In my experience WS is arrogant and unreasonable. I will never book their properties.

I contacted WS and received a reply from an unknown company somewhere in the US with only ONE anonymous mention on Google.

I asked WS for a few more agents to contact and they responded very kindly:

"You are free to book thru whomever you please provided they have an approved relationship with Wilderness Safaris. Our reservations system in JNB is most sophisticated and duplicate or similar itineraries are immediately flagged. If your intention is to shop around having different companies approach us for the same itinerary, we would with respect advise you to rather buy somebody else’s product."

I did exactly that. We went with CCAfrica and had a great safari.

gilsomenni is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 12:12 PM
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Wow, how odd!

I've done WS trips (or trips including a string of WS camps) and each time, I approached two or three different UK agents for a quote.

WS didn't seem to have a problem with it and neither did the agents. (I made it clear in my very first contact to each agent that, at that stage, I was dealing with 2/3 in total and would appreciate their comments and quote and let them know as soon as possible whether or not I would be proceeding with them).
Kavey is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 12:18 PM
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gil -

Well, that reply couldn't be more to the point!

And, well heeded by those considering WS properties.

Shopping an itinerary if a provisional reservation (hold) is placed by one agent, can be troublesome if another agent comes in with a more competitive price (w/o placing a provisional hold).

The original hold has to be cancelled by the first agent in order for the second agent to get the space. A pain in the rear for all concerned!
sandi is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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Can anyone provide up to date info on Kwando camps, their current state of management and quality of the various camp facilities (any that have been renovated recently?). It might be time to look elsewhere for a Botswana safari other than Wilderness?? That level of arrogance might get by in a good travel environment but this new economy is a different story. Anyone??
Temba is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 01:20 PM
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I agree that the lack of transparency on the part of Wilderness in terms of their pricing system is very irritating. And we definitely got different price quotes for the same camps from different agents.
lisa is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 02:25 PM
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some (fair) companies have got availability real time online for each tent in each camp via agent's log in.
so it's not necessary to excute a prov. reservation.

most TA have got a 24 hrs response guarantee. so it should be possible to get different quotes within 48 hrs at the latest!

regarding WS
why have they got an "enquiry" button?
does one get WS response or from an WS-agent?
i am also missing their information for their reps in each country. reps - not TA.

somehow extremely strange and certainly difficult to efficiently work with.

divine54 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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O.K., enough Wilderness bashing, whats the scoopt re: Kwando??
Temba is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 05:54 PM
Original Poster
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Ted - Likely get more attention if you start a thread with that title?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 06:03 PM
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Probably a good idea, I didn't mean to steal your thread. A very interesting topic. Like to see it stay alive and turn up some facts.
Temba is offline  
Oct 9th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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No, no, no I'm not taking offense. Matters not to me where this thread goes. Facts would be nice Just trying to help.

regards - tom
ps - have you seen my trip report I put up yesterday on South Africa? Apparently only one person has. Or has cared enough to respond. Do me a favor and post a reply so it bounces back up
cary999 is offline  

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