Why Use a Travel Agency?
Agency or Direct Booking?
As a hunting travel agency we clearly understand that some of our customers might believe that there is money to be saved by booking directly with the outfitter who ultimately will deliver the goods – as a travel agency don’t we always take a little something for our inconvenience? In reality, it is not quite that simple.
A Known Risk
The possibility of booking a hunting tour directly with the local outfitter is becoming more and more apparent as more and more outfitters are establishing their own websites. Some of them attempt to lure customers with prices much lower than some of the special offers we have “on the shelf”, and it’s not difficult to understand that many will be tempted.
The vast majority of our travelling hunters are now well aware that all travel agencies in Denmark selling package tours - that is tours that include, for example, both accommodation and flights or both hunting and accommodation - must be members of the Danish Travel Guarantee Fund. This legislation is there to protect consumers against the consequences of bankruptcies within the travel industry, which are unfortunately not as rare as they should be. If your booking is not covered by the Travel Guarantee Fund, you will have to carry the burden of the entire loss in the event on bankruptcy. A calculated risk, it might be said, even though very few travellers take it in to their calculations…..it only ever happens to other people.
But when it comes to hunting tours the safety net provided by the Travel Guarantee Fund is actually not the most important safety factor. There are many things that can go wrong on a hunting tour which can require the attention of the organiser to sort out during the tour, or in the worst case, to rectify all the deficiencies afterwards. If you have booked through a reputable travel agency there will always be someone who can help you - somebody who has an interest in getting any issues cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction. If you booked directly with an outfitter in Africa, Russia, North America or some other destination far from the Danish legal system, it is unfortunately all too easy, and relatively free of any financial cost, for an outfitter to simply turn his back on any problems.
We have watched this form the sidelines many times, and it is remarkable that it is only the success stories that are bandied about amongst hunters, and not the more embarrassing stories about how people have been taken for a ride, that’s how it goes.... Nobody really knows just how many self arranged tours end up going wrong - it is like a large black hole, and this makes it difficult for travelling hunters to assess the actual risk.
Not All are Crooks
Of course many self-arranged tours go fantastically well. There are certainly plenty of genuine, professional outfitters out there. The hunting was good, the outfitter was nice and everything worked as it should. If you are lucky enough to have been on such a tour, they you have certainly saved a lot of money….or have you?
Actually in most cases the answer is no. When we enter into an agreement to represent an outfitter, in reality we take over a large part of the their marketing and administration in relation to our market. He saves time reaching customers in their own language through, for example, websites, newsmails, brochures, trade shows etc. He is freed from servicing customers by telephone and via email. He can escape all the administration involved in organising his customers’ travel arrangements and all the practical details and all the paperwork that this involves, and he can avoid being confronted by unexpected problems that might arise underway - for example a client countering delays on their journey or loosing their baggage. He can also avoid worrying about payments, billing and bookkeeping and it is no longer him, but the travel agency that any dissatisfied customers start complaining too.In other words he is outsourcing a great deal of administrative work to the agency - and naturally he has to pay for this.
This is typically taken care of by the agency getting a commission based on the outfitter’s price list. In other words a percentage of the price he charges. If a travelling hunter, from a market where the outfitter is not represented by an agency, books directly with the outfitter, they will pay exactly the same prices for the hunting, accommodation and trophies as our customers do. In most cases they will, in other words, not save a penny by booking directly!
When, over the years, we have discussed this topic with customers who are convinced that they can save money by arranging their tours themselves, we are often present with many examples of hunting trips to, for example, Africa which have been cheaper than any of the tours we have in our program.
We are very aware that it is possible to find cheaper tours than ours. But often we do wonder if some of our customers have really understood why there is a price difference. Two different kudu hunts are not necessarily comparable, even though the trophies that end up hanging on the wall may look the same. One hunt may, perhaps, have taken place on a well managed wild game preserve of 450 square kilometers where the hunting, accommodation and meals are all of the highest standard, while the other hunt may have taken place in a fenced-in area of some 2 square kilometers, for a bull kudu that was released into this enclosure three days earlier, in order to be shot, while the hunter stays in the outfitter’s guest room and his mother in law takes care of the cooking. If you really want to compare prices, you must compare products that are of the same quality. Chalk and cheese are not the same.
We sell hunting tours selection from the top- and mid-range of the market. We do not sell tours from the low-end of the market. First and foremost this is because it is simple not worthwhile for us to do so. We could certainly find partners in this segment who would pay us a fair percentage for us to represent them, but in part we have certain minimum requirements for the quality of the hunting that we offer, which is seldom fulfilled in the low-cost segment of the market, and partially because we have experienced that unfortunately there is a significantly greater risk of something going wrong on a hunting trip in this price range.
One comment we have often heard from clients who have become regulars of ours, after having experimented with arranging their own tours for a while is, seen with hindsight, it was more expensive for them to arrange the tours themselves - when you take the quality of the experience into account - and they did not take into account how much time was actually involved in doing things when they were tempted to take the DIY option. By this they don’t meaning the planning phase, which is often exciting in itself, but in all the administrative work that is needed afterward, and not least all the time wasted on a bad trip and all the subsequent conflicts, which rarely ever reach a satisfactory conclusion.
So to keep it short and sweet, perhaps you should drop the hassle and uncertainty of booking through a more or less random outfitter’s website, and instead take advantage of the competent, free advice, the security and the 24-hour emergency telephone service all provided by a travel agency that is a member of the Travel Guarantee Fund, The Association of Danish Travel Agencies, and Travel Board of Appeal.