Re: Pelagic Boat trip pricing? (Long)
- 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