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Since getting certified my wife and I have made 2 trips to Mexico and do our local diving by ourselves. We thought it would be nice to plan a trip to Coz and Bonaire with our LDS to get to know divers from our area and enjoy their company when waiting for the next days diving. I wasn't expecting the trip to be less expensive and thought any group discount went to the dive shop for organizing it. I was surprised to find out the LDS trip cost a lot higher than if we did the same trip, same hotel and flight and dive op. Am I missing something here or just being over sensitive due to dropping 50% more on equipment than I would have over the net? Is making money on organizing dive trips a profit center for dive shops also? I honesly thought putting together dive trip was to help build loyalty to the shop. I'll buy my equipment, take classes and support my LDS but I don't like paying money for the priveledge of being around them.
That's a shame but another thing to consider is the support your LDS might provide during a trip. Do they send along a representative that is familiar with the area and can answer your questions? Can they service your gear while there? Do they have better connections for for shore excursions, renting vehicles, etc.?
We price stuff out ourselves too but have found the group trips to be cheaper in the end and have made some good friends too.
Yes, in most cases LDS-led dive vacations generate profit for the shop. The LDS can provide some value-added services which should be taken into consideration. Sometimes an instructor will provide free training. Often times the trip leader will help resolve any issues that may crop up during the course of the trip.
My dive buddies and I have planned trips to both Cozumel and Bonaire. It's very easy to do, and we don't mind doing things on our own. Frankly, I don't think you should be dependent on the dive shop for your circle of dive friends. I recommend joining a dive club and meeting divers that way. Then, plan your own trips. With the money you save, you'll be able to go on vacation more often.
That's been my experience also, the LDS trips always cost more. We always book our own trips now. We have two shops in town that have dive-travel agencies on site - even giving them our exact dates and desired locations, they were never able to get within $200 of the prices I found using a combination of resort and airlines websites. Often it was a lot more.
On the LDS trips I think it's partly because you're all paying so that the staff person from the shop goes free. I know several DM's/Instructors at one shop and they never pay since they're "working" during the trip.
Although it's a profit maker for the LDS also.
We have one shop that books a liveaboard annually, I looked into booking the same boat for my friends, the quoted price for 12 of us was $14K or $1166pp. They even have a graduated payment schedule so it's $1000 down with increasing payments due at 6, 4, and 2 months prior. So there's no big up-front payment commitment required - by the LDS or privately. The LDS trip also includes r/t air and 1 night in a hotel.
Since it's a liveaboard, there are no other costs to the LDS. Next month r/t air from here would be $429 at retail. Even if you add $100/nt pp for the room. the total is $1695 pp. And I'm not getting any wholesale discounts.
The LDS charges $2495 for the same trip.
Surprisingly someone I know slightly just went on the trip. When I asked why, he said that the convenience of just showing up was worth it. I can go to Coz for a week air/hotel for the $800 difference so I'll do the work.
We have a small group of 8-10 that travel together regularly, the last 5 years we've done a spring trip to somewhere warm. We do all the booking ourselves - two of us will typically find the best deals and options - redeye vs. overnight etc. and let everyone decide/book their own itinerary. We always reference the name of our group when booking, that's twice given us discounts at the destination diveop since we were pretty much their business for the week. We do as many dives as possible typically - sometimes with a day break in the middle of the week.
We always save money over anyone's published deals although a couple of times, the national dive travel agencies have been really competitive with a group of our size. I often give Caradonna, Aquadreams etc. a chance at our business - and call/contact resorts directly. One time that resulted in a condo upgrade at no cost that the dive travel agent didn't know about.
So you might try something similar in your area. We have a non-LDS affiliated club that meets monthly. And a private forum here on SB. There are about 200+ registered members in the club but only about 5% are active in our local or travel activities.
London, Ontario , Canada & Playa del Carmen, Mexico
200 - 499
I have been on both sides of the equation and have found that sometimes it is better to pay the extra $ and sometimes it is not. You may find that with some trips organized by a LDS the LDS staff attending are not paying for the trip. Their costs are absorbed in what you are paying and therefore any group discounts don't filter down to the individual diver. This is common in the dive industry and an accepted practice because the LDS puts in the time to organize the trip and makes sure everything goes smooth. I have enjoyed these group trips because it is usually with good friends and they tend to be worry free. I have also arranged trips myself for small groups (4 divers) and have had as much or more fun at a fraction of the cost. An example...last July to Playa Del Carmen a week that included 17 dives that included 3 cenote dives and a night dive for 540$US. The flight was 305$US return and we shared a condo plus groceries. We figured we did it at half the package price for an AI and on-site dive op. Good friends, good diving AND half the price!!!
I will continue to do both types of trips but if $$ were the deciding factor then I don't mind doing my own organizing.
I'm thinking out loud here but some of the dynamics be different in your region? I ask out of ignorance here, do you have any good local diving?
Those with the ocean or other significant local diving can have an a pool of active divers with which to build relationships ships. In a more land locked location the excursion is the primary mode of facilitating dives. The tendency there would be more need to bring divers together and perhaps due to a lesser activity level provide additional support. Trips in this case also become the primary training ground. All of that means that the organizer brings more value to the table.
I don't know if this really applies in your neighborhood but Oklahoma caught my eye.
To date our travel has been independently planned and executed. The shop trips prices I have seen were not that far from market prices but often had features that would not be my first choice.
I do hear that as a minimum some level of accommodation for the shop is provided such they stay & dive on the cheap. That lets them get divers to the destination without the need to mark things up too much. YMMV.
We've done one LDS-organized trip, and it was to Indonesia. I don't know if we could have done it cheaper on our own, but it was worth it to us to have somebody else do all the legwork of checking out the different resorts and dive ops and figure out all the logistics. It was also nice to travel with people we know, and some of whom we liked
I know a lot more about dive travel now than I did then, though. But it can still be hard to put a group together to go somewhere. I ran a trip to the Red Sea last year, and I had to prebook a certain number of spots, which meant I was on the hook for those costs, whether I could fill them or not. As it turned out, due to a generous action by a friend (who brought his son) we filled nine of the ten -- therefore, there was no discount for anyone and I paid full price for my trip. My guess is that you pay more through the LDS as some insurance to them against this kind of thing happening. Otherwise, they could lose a LOT of money on a trip.
Generally we live in a competitive market economy, and for the most part it's been my experience that local dive shops are 'keeping it real' with respect to pricing, my policy is I'm willing to pay a bit more (within reason) to have someone else break all the new ground and debug all the logistics so all I want to have to do is pack my gear and show up at the airport...I'm interested in diving, and no worries, that's why it's called a 'vacation'!
I've been on only one dive trip through my LDS and it was more expensive than if I booked it on my own. As a general rule, I think trips are more money when you book them with your LDS since its a way for them to generate revenue. I have my circle of dive buddies now and we usually book vacations by researching on our own and booking everything with websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, etc. and also with the dive operations directly. I've had good results so far.