Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Photo Tours: Paying Through the Nose?

Image Copyright © Ralph Childs-All Rights Reserved

It’s incredible but true...people will pay more -often much more- than others for exactly the same product or service. Others will pay more - sometimes hugely more - for an inferior product or service that looks or sounds the same.

This behavior is often exhibited in photo tours, and specifically those to Bhutan. Figuring out costs in Bhutan is simple because the government dictates a standard price per day for tourists (currently $200), and where accommodations are within the same price range and quality (excepting the 4 luxury Aman hotels in Bhutan that are exempted from government tariff setting, and which charge about $900 a night!).

The land cost for the photo-expedition I organized and led to Bhutan last October was $2890. The duration of the tour was 14 days, which means that the cost per day for each member (single occupancy) was $206. The maximum number of participants on my expeditions is not more than 8 photographers.

I just ran a thorough search for ‘photo tours to Bhutan’ using Google, and found a handful of photo tours ranging in price (land costs only) from a low of $4350 for 14 days (ie $310 per day for each member) to a high of $6900 for 10 days (ie $690 per day per member). So why would anyone pay $690 a day instead of $310...or even $206? Accommodations, guides, vehicle, transportation, food, sight seeing, access to festivals, are virtually the same. In some cases, even the land operator in Bhutan is one and the same.

Naturally, what’s left out from the above comparison is the capability and experience of the photo tour leader, which impacts on whether the photographers on the tour return with great photographs or not. But whether this is worth the add-on to the land costs is a qualitative factor that can only be determined by members' experiences. Having a celebrity photographer lead the tour is no assurance that it'll be worth the premium....especially if the celebrity is more interested in shooting stock for his/her inventory during the tour.

So here’s the challenge: if any member of any photo tour to Bhutan reads TTP, and believes that his or her photographs are better than the one above by Ralph Childs…a regular member on my photo expeditions…made during the Prakhar tsechu, please email it to me, along with an explanation as to why it’s better and why the tour cost you paid is -in your view- justifiable. I'll post the photographs and your comments on TTP.