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Re: [CALBIRDS] Re: Pelagic Boat trip pricing? (Long)

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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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