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Value Added?

Adventure Found, January 1998

Value Added?

Just what are you getting for your trip fee?
By Anne Goodwin Sides

A dirham here. Twenty thousand centimes there. Pretty soon you're talking real money. Ever wonder where your 50 percent deposit and "remainder due two weeks before departure" goes? We did. So we chose two trips with identical itineraries but widely disparate prices, each a 15-day jaunt to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains. Then we made some calls. What we found is that local costs don't necessarily correlate with trip price, in part because the American companies buy the right to offer this trip from British outfitters and then add a markup — a common practice in the travel industry. The advantage of this is that you deal with a domestic company; the downside is that you supply their profit. Of course, you could always plan and lead the trip yourself. But you won't automatically save money, and most certainly not time. What's more, who will you complain to when things go wrong?
Actual costs
of accommodations
(per person, assuming a group of ten)
3 nights at Hotel Ali, $27
10 nights in Berber huts plus 2 nights camping, $92 (including meals, but not a chef)
3 nights, Hotel de Foucauld, $54
10 nights camping plus 2 nights in Berber huts, $120 (including meals and a chef)
3 nights at Hotel Ali, $27
12 nights camping with you as chef, $72, or 12 nights in Berber huts with others cooking, $96
For tour of Medina about $1 about $1 about $1
For trek porters and mules $51 (assuming five porters per trip) $51 $102 (for one porter and a mule)
For official mountain guide $20.50 $20.50 $204 and up
Western trip leader $50 $50 $0
Minibus from Marrakech to Imlil and back $15 $15 $15 if minibus is full; otherwise, cost escalates
Evacuation insurance $55, required none required $55, if desired
Total cost to outfitter $311.50 $311.50 $476-500
Advertised price of trip $490 $895
Comment Richard McConnell of Adventure Center: "We're selling someone else's trip, so we don't have the expense of filling every slot. We still make a profit." Jim Faubel of Himalayan: "You pay for tangibles and intangibles. We believe we use the best possible accommodations and best guides. Sometimes that costs a bit more." Richard Bangs, cofounder of Mountain Travel-Sobek: "Going on your own is more costly. But it lets you make discoveries and explore. It's the way I travel now."

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