Friday, January 26, 2007

Photo Tours: Are You Paying Too Much?

Image from Supplicants of Bahadur Shaheed - copyright 2006 Tewfic El-Sawy

I've led many photo tours or "expeditions" (as I prefer to call them) to India, Bhutan, Cambodia, Nepal etc., and I'm currently setting one up in Bali...and little astounds me more than the prices of photo tours led by self-described 'experts'. Mind you, I'm talking of photo tours, and not of photo workshops which can be more costly to operate because of the hands-on tutoring, individual critiques, etc. Of course, there are photo workshops and there are photo workshops...but that's for another day.

Here's an easy real life example: a 2007 photo tour to Bhutan for about 12 whole days is offered at $5500 per person, on a double occupancy basis, and inclusive of the round trip airfare to Paro from Bangkok of about $700. Using round figures, the land cost for this photo tour is therefore about $4800.

Now let's keep things simple. Anyone doing a minimal amount of research will know that the Bhutan government-mandated land cost per day is $200...that includes room and board, meals, transportation and qualified guides. Taking this particular photo tour as an example, I calculated that based on the itinerary, the land cost is this: 12 days multiplied by $200 is $2400 per person on a double occupancy basis. That's what it should cost the photo tour organizer, but let's be generous and bump this up for incidentals, administrative costs, etc. and make it $2800.

This still leaves a gross profit margin of $2400 per person on the tour. Assuming 12 persons on the tour, we're looking at $28,800 for the tour organizer. Nice! And that's for two weeks of work. I'd love to annualize this for you, but I'm not that good with a calculator. And don't forget that the tour operator in Bhutan (as distinct from the tour organizer) is also making a profit out of the $200 a day government-mandated land cost.

It may be that some people are willing to pay that much for what they think is "expert advice and local knowledge", but I don't agree at all with this mindset. I'm all for people making a profit, but I think there's a difference between a reasonable amount of return and one that is over the top.

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