The safari industry
and how pricing works
the rack rate
(or "off the shelf" brochure price) and "usually" includes all land
costs with accommodation, meals, guide fees and activities (often
excludes parks fees).
Some safari operators sell directly to the consumer but they don't
discount the rack rate - if they do they run the risk of alienating
their trade support.
Types of discount
price to consumers is usually based on the rack rate and sometimes gets discounted.
(In some cases tour operators run the risk of alienating safari operators
if they discount rack rates without agreement.) When applied, discounts are offered as follows:
here's one that's been available for the last 10 years!
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge at less than half price. Still
valid! The beauty of this one is that it provides first class
but inexpensive accommodation and easy access to other safari
options in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.
So what are the average costs of a safari?
(with some comparisons between 2007 and 2013)
trips in Namibia can cost around $150 per person per night - set
departures, fairly large groups, basic campsites.
trips in East Africa, or Victoria Falls/Botswana or South
Africa/Zimbabwe/Botswana can work out at less than $100 per night.
We've had good value camping safaris in Tanzania's Serengeti run
over 6 days cost $1700 (Dec '08) or $1900 (June 2013) including parks fees.
- In all
cases above these are well organised trips run by reputable
companies in a very competitive sector of the market.
generally appeal to the younger set, are packaged and priced
trips to small and remote bush camps with Professional Guides cost a
fair bit more. To illustrate,
budget trips in Zimbabwe's lower Zambezi valley might cost around $350
per night, a comparable trip in Botswana will cost around $550 per
of our best and most successful safaris which cover additional
ground with a bit more exclusivity work out at $360 in Zimbabwe,
$490 in Zambia, $650 in Botswana, Southern Tanzania and Kenya (2008
one or two of these trips with a specific Pro Guide and you may need
to add 30% to the rates - and there's no question that these safaris
are fair value for money.
apples with apples as well - these "daily" rates could include
- local charter rates getting you in and out of remote areas.....one
of our best trips in Zambia's Luangwa valley over 7 nights costs
exactly the same as an equivalent standard trip in Zambia's Kafue
over 4 nights - the difference being the helicopter used to get you
into camp from Lusaka....
Parks Fees - in the Serengeti rates generally exclude National Parks
Fees, in Kenya's Laikipia, Conservancy Fees are included in the
in 2008/2009 the "credit crunch" shook the entire industry's prices.
It continues today! Some prices have come down and we have
regular "pay 5 stay 7" specials. Even the occasional 50%
about the latest)
Why the big regional differences?
Botswana, we have a well established policy of "low volumes,
high returns". From a conservation point of view there's
very little doubt that it's a good policy - especially since a large
portion of the safari earnings go back into actual
conservation. So prices are generally higher, supply and
demand is a big factor.
- In the
remoter parts of Zambia, southern Tanzania and Zimbabwe (the
Luangwa, Kafue, lower Zambezi, Ruaha, Selous and Mana Pools) the
camps are often very small (some with only 6 guests) and our safari
season is relatively short (May to October at best). Most of
these safaris are a very fair deal when you start adding in
Kenya we've seen groups of operators across the Mara, Laikipia,
Amboseli and the coast standardise their charges at around $450
(excluding parks fees) - this hasn't happened to the same extent in
Zimbabwe we saw politics turn market forces upside down.
Volumes dropped, prices came down and whilst the rest of Africa was
booming up to 2008/9, Zimbabwe was in the doldrums. Things are
looking good for
Zimbabwe - value
for money is excellent
now in 2013!
South Africa you could have access to regional rates without having
to prove that you're not an "international" guest...in Zimbabwe's
"old days" you could get local, regional or international rates for
the same product depending on who you spoke to...not fair at all.
What variables will keep the cost of a safari down?
in mind that all of our safaris are based on land costs and exclude
international airfares. A review of the "Airfares
for Africa" site is strongly recommended for some ideas on
this. We're ATOL licensed for international flights out of the
UK and are well connected to consolidators in the US (just let us
know if you'd like us to take care of the international airfares
with your safari)
- One of
the biggest cost drivers on a trip is in fact the logistical costs
of getting in and out of remoter spots. Typically a 7 day trip
covering the South and North Luangwa is going to be far more cost
effective than trying to cover the Luangwa, Kafue, lower Zambezi and
Victoria Falls in the same period. Aside from costs, you'll
probably be too exhausted by the series of light aircraft charters to appreciate
the latter trip.
careful when planning a multi-country trip in the region.
Typically, East Africa and Southern Africa don't combine all that
well because of the lost time in transit and additional costs if you
can't get code-sharing connections between the destinations.
about combining a bit of luxury with "participative
- For example a lower Zambezi canoe trail works
well with a "luxury" lodge in Matusadona. The canoe trail is a load of
fun and relatively inexpensive, the lodge gives you a good walking
safari and some creature comforts.
simple camping trip in the Serengeti combines with a bit of lodge
luxury on the coast.
- Take a
close look at our modules. They've been packaged based on
options that are well proven - the logistics work, the activities
and destinations are well matched and we've discounted prices.
A word on card surcharges
Companies that accept credit and pre-paid debit cards hold merchant
accounts for which they're charged transaction fees in addition to
processing fees for SSL encryption systems. These costs range
between around 2-5% on every transaction.
Merchant agreements in the US and EU, as established by MasterCard,
Visa, and American Express, generally prohibit passing on the cost
of card processing (interchange fees) in the form of a "card
surcharge" or "convenience fee".
is not the case in the UK or Australia where the "no-surcharge"
ruling is banned.
if you deal for example with a US tour operator they would generally
build the cost of processing cards into their pricing and will often
offer a 2-5% discount for cash or wire transfers.
traders and tour operators are entitled to add a fee for
processing cards. Some build the cost into their pricing
structures (in which case discounts should be giving for transfers
and cheques), others treat the cost as an add-on. The guideline
from the Office of Fair Trading covers
Transparency; clients should be told up-front what the relevant
charges are if they apply.
Reasonable and practical alternatives to avoiding card charges
should be made available.
Extra charges to clients should be consistent with processing costs
incurred by merchants (they shouldn't be excessive)
future ruling may restrict traders from applying any charges for
pre-paid debit cards.
Africa it's not uncommon to be expected to pay a 5-7% card
surcharge! (Zanzibar has to be the worst)
We're transparent about administration fees associated with our
secure booking system, we offer no-charge alternatives, we're in the
business of selling safaris so don't profit by these fees.
[read more about our
Some words of caution?
seen "packaged holidays" out of the UK for 2 weeks including
international airfares on a full board basis in Kenya for "from
£579" (around $1150 - January 2007)...you get what you pay for...big
resorts, minibuses, extras...."caveat emptor" - that's 2 weeks, all
in, just over $1000! Those clients never saw real
Africa - guaranteed.
one spot in the Serengeti’s Western Corridor that’s on the migration
path for about one week each year, usually around June, has
poor resident game, has a lousy road network, is a 2 hour
bone-jarring drive from the Seronera circuits but enjoys a 10 month
“high season” and is practically full for 11 months of the year.
only explanation for this is that the market has been duped -
there's very little chance that these visitors will ever admit to
friends at home that they were disappointed especially since they
would have spent $1375 per room per night (2007 rates)! (Not
far away in Grumeti area you'll find two small lodges where the
comparable '07 rate was $800 pppn and of significantly better value
- we continue to support the latter strongly.)