Optional Extras – The Money Made and the Illusion it is Included (Part 2 of 4)


Euan Landsborough

Optional Extras – The Money Made and the Illusion it is Included (Part 2 of 4)

In Part 1 I highlighted the Albatross ‘no option’ philosophy is virtually unique. And, that mainstream European Tour Operators charge their Tour Managers big money to take their tours out, thereby getting a slice of the big money action. 
But what I didn’t tell you is how much money is made and how they do it. And, how it impacts on your day to day sightseeing - it may shock you.

How much money do they make on ‘Optionals’?

I reckon whoever wrote ‘their’ booking conditions about ‘optionals' did so with a big giggle. The following Booking Condition statement is identical, word for word, in 2 separate companies’ conditions. 
They say their options are “offered at special preferential prices”. Really? Surely reading that you would assume that those special prices would be lower than you can get elsewhere?  You couldn’t be more wrong. That really is an incredible tongue in cheek statement. In reality, their optional tours are sold with enormous mark-ups because they are pivotal money-making exercises. 
Let me give you an actual example. One company offers an optional ‘Rome Highlights’ guided walking tour. The ‘optional’ fee for this tour is (currently) listed at $63 per person to see such amazing city highlights such as Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain. There are no entrance fees. So, with 40 people joining they will collect $2,520.
Out of this Latin treasure chest, they will, if a coach is needed, slip the driver about $200 for a short transfer. With the driver now happy, they will also pay about $300 to a local guide for a couple of hours of commentary whilst you do the walking tour. That will leave just over $2,000 to pay for…. for… hmm, can’t think of anything. Oh yes, to line the Tour Director’s pocket.
I don't know how much you earn, but $2,000 net profit for a single walking tour is quite amazing! And that is just one of four options offered over the 2 days in Rome!

But wait… there is more

That same morning, they left on a brochure itinerary included, city tour of Rome at a ridiculous 7.10am (yes 10 past 7!). The reason they left so early was so they could later squeeze in this ‘optional tour’. Consequently, you are forced to get out of bed very early, miss breakfast, so they can make money out of you in a later, jammed in optional activity.
Getting angry?
And what is even more ironic is that during that included early morning tour they intentionally omitted these world-class sights that you would pass close by. Omitted just so they could keep them up their sleeves to offer as an expensive optional tour later.
Excluding these incredible world-famous, free sights, just so they can create an ‘optional’ tour and charge such a ridiculous amount? Doesn’t that make your blood boil? It does mine! It’s just wrong!

Expensive options to steal away your free time

But often the glossy brochures throw such spin that you assume that items, activities items are included already. Clarity is not there.Very little space is allocated to tell you about the tour itineraries and inclusions, quite possibly because the actual tour itself is, smoke and mirror style, quite empty.
Yet, they will allocate valuable space in their brochure talking about the options as if they are included. Examples are like, "why not join us this evening in a delightful, Tuscan farmhouse for a feast of antipasti and local specialties…” Sounds divine and paints a beautiful picture and appears as the highlight for the day however it is not actually included. Therefore, surely integrity says it should be made a lot more obvious or succinct that these costs are extra if you want to do it.
Added to that, you can see they boast about providing you glorious free time at leisure even on their busy itineraries, only to effectively steal it away by pushing these optional extras.  More on that in ‘Optional extras Part 4’.

Must do activities should always be included

Integrity is essential. My philosophy, the Albatross philosophy, is strikingly different to virtually all our competitors. I say, if something is obviously necessary to make a tour great, it should never be left out. If you can predict that a ‘must do’ activity will complete your experience, it should be included, and because it is built into the itinerary from the start, it can be done properly.
Furthermore, by building it in, we can guarantee your free time – ‘My Time’ - will remain free and never be ‘stolen’.  Albatross do not offer optional excursions or activities because we already include them, and the way so many others leverage ‘optionals’ on you is to me, well, immoral and an absolute rip off.
Coming up next week… Part 3 – How most mainstream European tour operators allude that so many activities are included, then charge you extra. And how even though they provide them they cleverly distance themselves from all responsibility.!
Do you know anyone who is considering booking one of these mainstream, ‘option fed’ tours? Maybe forward this message to them, I am sure they would appreciate it.
Read Part 1: Optional Extras - Buyer Beware
Euan Landsborough, 'The Mo'
Albatross Tours Founder and Tour Designer


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