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Re: Pelagic Boat trip pricing? (Long)

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  • toddamcgrath
    Calbirders, As a leader of Pelagic birding trips on both coasts, I have a pretty good understanding of the elements that go into the pricing of a pelagic
    Message 1 of 10 , Feb 9, 2009
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      Calbirders,

      As a leader of Pelagic birding trips on both coasts, I have a pretty
      good understanding of the elements that go into the pricing of a
      pelagic birding trip.

      One of the primary components is fuel. On a whale watching trip
      (especially gray whales), they don't have to travel far, and so even if
      they stay out 4 hours, they don't use nearly half as much fuel as a
      pelagic birding trip, where we want to run from flock of birds to flock
      of birds, and have specific offshore points we would like to reach.

      Next is the capacity of the boat. Most of the So Cal trips do not book
      the boat up to capacity, because looking at birds does not facilitate
      carrying as many folks as whale watching. The Condor Express can carry
      100+ people on a whale watch, but we generally book about 55 for a
      birding trip. That leaves plenty of room around the boat.

      distance plays a factor. On one of the large slow San Diego boats, a 10
      hour trip might only cover 40 miles. A 12 hour deepwater trip on the
      Condor Express covers around 200-250. (think fuel). Longer trips
      (anything approaching 12 hours) also require at least two captains
      aboard, which also raises the price substantially.

      Also time of year, and the opportunity of the boat owner to do
      different things with the boat also impact the price. I can get a good
      charter rate in December out of San Diego, but in July that same trip
      will be more than double, because the boat owner can take out fisherman
      who will generally pay more than birders, drink more beer out of the
      galley and tip the crew generously for assisting with the catching and
      cleaning of fish. Plus the boat owners like to fish, and some require a
      premuim to do something else during the peak season.

      The leaders. If there are 5 leaders on the boat, then that is 5 spots
      that aren't paying customers. You don't need 5 leaders to find a whale,
      or a pod of dolphins, but for birding, you want to have a good number
      of leaders around the boat to point things out. On a 50 person boat
      that is 10% of the charge.

      Tipping the mates. On fishing and even some whale watches, the crews
      get tips, and those tips are in addition to the price. Many (but not
      all) birding trips include all or a part of that gratuity in the price.
      A mate on a fishing trip earns much larger tips than on a birding trip,
      but they need some minimum level of pay to make it worthwhile.

      Also the Audubon groups are not completely non-profit. They often
      provide insurance coverage for the trips, provide web space and other
      avertising, and have their staff or vlounteers work on the bookings.
      They generally price the trips so that they will not lose money if the
      trip doesn't sell out. Over the course of the season, they make profits
      on some trips, lose a bit on others, and try to be in the black at the
      ned of the year.

      When I look at the variety of costs for pelagics, it makes sense to me,
      and I am pretty sure that no one is getting overpaid. I know I'm not
      getting paid at all.

      Todd McGrath
      Marina Del Rey CA
    • aguillard2469
      Todd, Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now it all makes sense to me. I appreciate that you took the time to write it all down. Thanks, Doug Aguillard
      Message 2 of 10 , Feb 9, 2009
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        Todd,

        Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now it all makes sense to
        me. I appreciate that you took the time to write it all down.

        Thanks,

        Doug Aguillard
        San Diego, CA
        doug@...


        --- In CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com, "toddamcgrath" <toddamcgrath@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Calbirders,
        >
        > As a leader of Pelagic birding trips on both coasts, I have a
        pretty
        > good understanding of the elements that go into the pricing of a
        > pelagic birding trip.
        >
        > One of the primary components is fuel. On a whale watching trip
        > (especially gray whales), they don't have to travel far, and so
        even if
        > they stay out 4 hours, they don't use nearly half as much fuel as a
        > pelagic birding trip, where we want to run from flock of birds to
        flock
        > of birds, and have specific offshore points we would like to reach.
        >
        > Next is the capacity of the boat. Most of the So Cal trips do not
        book
        > the boat up to capacity, because looking at birds does not
        facilitate
        > carrying as many folks as whale watching. The Condor Express can
        carry
        > 100+ people on a whale watch, but we generally book about 55 for a
        > birding trip. That leaves plenty of room around the boat.
        >
        > distance plays a factor. On one of the large slow San Diego boats,
        a 10
        > hour trip might only cover 40 miles. A 12 hour deepwater trip on
        the
        > Condor Express covers around 200-250. (think fuel). Longer trips
        > (anything approaching 12 hours) also require at least two captains
        > aboard, which also raises the price substantially.
        >
        > Also time of year, and the opportunity of the boat owner to do
        > different things with the boat also impact the price. I can get a
        good
        > charter rate in December out of San Diego, but in July that same
        trip
        > will be more than double, because the boat owner can take out
        fisherman
        > who will generally pay more than birders, drink more beer out of
        the
        > galley and tip the crew generously for assisting with the catching
        and
        > cleaning of fish. Plus the boat owners like to fish, and some
        require a
        > premuim to do something else during the peak season.
        >
        > The leaders. If there are 5 leaders on the boat, then that is 5
        spots
        > that aren't paying customers. You don't need 5 leaders to find a
        whale,
        > or a pod of dolphins, but for birding, you want to have a good
        number
        > of leaders around the boat to point things out. On a 50 person boat
        > that is 10% of the charge.
        >
        > Tipping the mates. On fishing and even some whale watches, the
        crews
        > get tips, and those tips are in addition to the price. Many (but
        not
        > all) birding trips include all or a part of that gratuity in the
        price.
        > A mate on a fishing trip earns much larger tips than on a birding
        trip,
        > but they need some minimum level of pay to make it worthwhile.
        >
        > Also the Audubon groups are not completely non-profit. They often
        > provide insurance coverage for the trips, provide web space and
        other
        > avertising, and have their staff or vlounteers work on the
        bookings.
        > They generally price the trips so that they will not lose money if
        the
        > trip doesn't sell out. Over the course of the season, they make
        profits
        > on some trips, lose a bit on others, and try to be in the black at
        the
        > ned of the year.
        >
        > When I look at the variety of costs for pelagics, it makes sense to
        me,
        > and I am pretty sure that no one is getting overpaid. I know I'm
        not
        > getting paid at all.
        >
        > Todd McGrath
        > Marina Del Rey CA
        >
      • Dany Sloan
        Thanks for the explanation, Todd. Very informative. Cheers, Dany Sloan LA CA - Show quoted text - -- Dany Sloan // Exitfare http://exitfare.blogspot.com Simon
        Message 3 of 10 , Feb 9, 2009
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          Thanks for the explanation, Todd. Very informative.

          Cheers,
          Dany Sloan
          LA CA
          - Show quoted text -
          --
          Dany Sloan // Exitfare
          http://exitfare.blogspot.com
          Simon Says No! (US/UK Management)
          http://www.myspace.com/nosayssimon
          The Brothers Movement (US/UK Management)
          http://www.myspace.com/thebrothersmovement
          (m) +1.213.447.2103
        • Geoffrey Rogers
          Doug, Sue, and all, I see the reasoning here as explained by Todd but still wonder what we have wrought by following the ABA s advice to tell the world that
          Message 4 of 10 , Feb 9, 2009
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            Doug, Sue, and all,

            I see the reasoning here as explained by Todd but still wonder what we have
            wrought by following the ABA's advice to tell the world that we're birders
            and we're spending money. This surely has increased optics prices and
            spawned a high-end marketing effort in bird tour companies, festivals, bird
            CD-loaded Ipods and everything else advertised in Birding magazine. I guess
            for the "gainfully employed but underpaid" like Sue, me, and some there's
            no turning back.

            Geoff

            Geoffrey L. Rogers
            San Diego, CA
            oreortyx@...



            > [Original Message]
            > From: aguillard2469 <doug@...>
            > To: <CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com>
            > Date: 2/9/2009 3:10:46 PM
            > Subject: [CALBIRDS] Re: Pelagic Boat trip pricing? (Long)
            >
            > Todd,
            >
            > Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now it all makes sense to
            > me. I appreciate that you took the time to write it all down.
            >
            > Thanks,
            >
            > Doug Aguillard
            > San Diego, CA
            > doug@...
          • lilithm3@juno.com
            Ditto, Todd. As a program director for a non-profit organization, I book lectures, workshops, classes specific to that organization s purpose and we ve seen a
            Message 5 of 10 , Feb 9, 2009
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              Ditto, Todd.

              As a program director for a non-profit organization, I book lectures, workshops, classes specific to that organization's purpose and we've seen a major drop-off in attendees because of the economy. The presenters must cover their costs (coming from out of the area or out of state or country), we must have our share to keep the place running, and the attendees must be able to afford it.

              So, whether that organization or a pelagic trip, it all comes down, in this economy, to each person deciding where to put their money...and it's getting considerably harder to afford Really Cool Stuff when basic needs have to be met.

              Todd, thanks again for breaking it all down. I didn't know about the tipping (I have only one Monterey Birds trip and one Sea & Sage Audubon local trip under my belt, and both were about three years ago), nor a few other salient points.

              Believe me, when the economy recovers and I (hopefully) get a very long-deferred raise, I'll celebrate by signing up for a series of pelagic trips!

              Sue Jorgenson
              Fullerton CA

              -- "aguillard2469" <doug@...> wrote:
              Todd,

              Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now it all makes sense to
              me. I appreciate that you took the time to write it all down.

              Thanks,

              Doug Aguillard
              San Diego, CA
              doug@...


              --- In CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com, "toddamcgrath" <toddamcgrath@...>
              wrote:
              >
              > Calbirders,
              >
              > As a leader of Pelagic birding trips on both coasts, I have a
              pretty
              > good understanding of the elements that go into the pricing of a
              > pelagic birding trip.
              >
              > One of the primary components is fuel. On a whale watching trip
              > (especially gray whales), they don't have to travel far, and so
              even if
              > they stay out 4 hours, they don't use nearly half as much fuel as a
              > pelagic birding trip, where we want to run from flock of birds to
              flock
              > of birds, and have specific offshore points we would like to reach.
              >
              > Next is the capacity of the boat. Most of the So Cal trips do not
              book
              > the boat up to capacity, because looking at birds does not
              facilitate
              > carrying as many folks as whale watching. The Condor Express can
              carry
              > 100+ people on a whale watch, but we generally book about 55 for a
              > birding trip. That leaves plenty of room around the boat.
              >
              > distance plays a factor. On one of the large slow San Diego boats,
              a 10
              > hour trip might only cover 40 miles. A 12 hour deepwater trip on
              the
              > Condor Express covers around 200-250. (think fuel). Longer trips
              > (anything approaching 12 hours) also require at least two captains
              > aboard, which also raises the price substantially.
              >
              > Also time of year, and the opportunity of the boat owner to do
              > different things with the boat also impact the price. I can get a
              good
              > charter rate in December out of San Diego, but in July that same
              trip
              > will be more than double, because the boat owner can take out
              fisherman
              > who will generally pay more than birders, drink more beer out of
              the
              > galley and tip the crew generously for assisting with the catching
              and
              > cleaning of fish. Plus the boat owners like to fish, and some
              require a
              > premuim to do something else during the peak season.
              >
              > The leaders. If there are 5 leaders on the boat, then that is 5
              spots
              > that aren't paying customers. You don't need 5 leaders to find a
              whale,
              > or a pod of dolphins, but for birding, you want to have a good
              number
              > of leaders around the boat to point things out. On a 50 person boat
              > that is 10% of the charge.
              >
              > Tipping the mates. On fishing and even some whale watches, the
              crews
              > get tips, and those tips are in addition to the price. Many (but
              not
              > all) birding trips include all or a part of that gratuity in the
              price.
              > A mate on a fishing trip earns much larger tips than on a birding
              trip,
              > but they need some minimum level of pay to make it worthwhile.
              >
              > Also the Audubon groups are not completely non-profit. They often
              > provide insurance coverage for the trips, provide web space and
              other
              > avertising, and have their staff or vlounteers work on the
              bookings.
              > They generally price the trips so that they will not lose money if
              the
              > trip doesn't sell out. Over the course of the season, they make
              profits
              > on some trips, lose a bit on others, and try to be in the black at
              the
              > ned of the year.
              >
              > When I look at the variety of costs for pelagics, it makes sense to
              me,
              > and I am pretty sure that no one is getting overpaid. I know I'm
              not
              > getting paid at all.
              >
              > Todd McGrath
              > Marina Del Rey CA
              >




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            • lilithm3@juno.com
              Ouch. Excellent point, Geoff. That s why I had to replace my inherited binocs with a $50 pair of Bushnell binocs (10x50) from Wal-Mart. I would absolutely love
              Message 6 of 10 , Feb 9, 2009
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                Ouch. Excellent point, Geoff. That's why I had to replace my inherited binocs with a $50 pair of Bushnell binocs (10x50) from Wal-Mart. I would absolutely love to have a nicer pair of binocs but it's just going to have to wait until my sixteen year old daughter graduates from high school and college and is reasonably able to support herself. :-)

                Any more these days, I have to combine birding with business trips or vacations, instead of taking a trip for birding purposes. The last such trip was two years ago with a two-day Salton Sea trip sponsored by Sea & Sage Audubon (led by Vic Leipzig) and I had to save for several months for that and carpool with two others. If you want to reckon the return of that trip in terms of adding lifers to the list, it was an enormous success for me and worth every penny. On the other hand, when I took my first few days off in almost two years and headed to Buellton and Solvang for a badly-needed break in late November, the birding return was almost nil, other than being very relieved to see a flock of Yellow-Billed Magpies looking for grapes at a winery between Buellton and Solvang (not too far from Buttonwood and Zaca Mesa wineries, before the Fess Parker winery). Incidentally, that flock numbered some ten YBMs squabbling noisily and swooping across the road several times.

                Sue Jorgenson
                Fullerton

                -- "Geoffrey Rogers" <oreortyx@...> wrote:
                Doug, Sue, and all,

                I see the reasoning here as explained by Todd but still wonder what we have
                wrought by following the ABA's advice to tell the world that we're birders
                and we're spending money. This surely has increased optics prices and
                spawned a high-end marketing effort in bird tour companies, festivals, bird
                CD-loaded Ipods and everything else advertised in Birding magazine. I guess
                for the "gainfully employed but underpaid" like Sue, me, and some there's
                no turning back.

                Geoff

                Geoffrey L. Rogers
                San Diego, CA
                oreortyx@...



                > [Original Message]
                > From: aguillard2469 <doug@...>
                > To: <CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com>
                > Date: 2/9/2009 3:10:46 PM
                > Subject: [CALBIRDS] Re: Pelagic Boat trip pricing? (Long)
                >
                > Todd,
                >
                > Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now it all makes sense to
                > me. I appreciate that you took the time to write it all down.
                >
                > Thanks,
                >
                > Doug Aguillard
                > San Diego, CA
                > doug@...




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              • Clay Kempf
                Excellent job of explaining the complexities of pricing by Todd. One other point that factors into the comparative costs of a whale watching trip vs. a birding
                Message 7 of 10 , Feb 10, 2009
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                  Excellent job of explaining the complexities of pricing by Todd.

                  One other point that factors into the comparative costs of a whale
                  watching trip vs. a birding trip is the profit margin of the operator.
                  Most whale watching trips (and fishing trips) are scheduled and booked
                  by the same company operating the boats. These operators usually began
                  as fisherman/fishing boats, and many have branched out to learn basic
                  whale identification or have hired a token marine mammal "expert".

                  Birding companies, on the other hand, require greater skill and more
                  experienced leaders. Consequently, most are separate entities rather
                  than boating operators, and hire the boats as a charter. The result
                  is that the charter company charges the birding tour operator a rate
                  comparable to the retail rate of a fishing trip or a whale watching
                  trip. If the birding tour operator sold the trip out at fishing trip
                  prices, they would do nothing more than cover expenses. So the bird
                  tour operator has to increase their price further to make any profit.
                  Throw in the additional factors Todd mentions (more fuel consumed;
                  leader space, and costs for the non-sold spaces), and you can see how
                  quickly the additional costs will add up.

                  Last year I was a leader on about 20 pelagic trips, and the number of
                  passengers on those trips varied wildly...from completely sold out
                  trips with a couple of people standing next to the boat hoping for
                  last minute cancellations, to a few trips in which the passengers
                  barely outnumbered the leaders. Companies (e.g., Shearwater Journeys)
                  that offer a lot of trips out of a variety of ports have to make up
                  the cost of these under-booked trips (aka money losing trips), so that
                  the trips "go" even when the trip operates at a loss. This allows out-
                  of-area (or, out of country) passengers to book pelagic trips (and
                  associated travel) with a reasonable assurance that trip will be a go.

                  While all of these reasons are understandable, they don't provide the
                  price relief that was probably hoped for in some of the comments made.
                  Then again, its one of the reasons that pelagic birding is such a
                  treat, and adds to the excitement and adventure of the outing, in much
                  the same manner that finding a rare bird does. Throw in a few marine
                  mammals, and that rare seabird truly turns the outing into a lifetime
                  memory!

                  Clay Kempf
                  Monterey Bay
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