Group Tours and the Commission system

Thinking about travelling with a major adventure tour company…what are you really paying for? It might seem like a bargain, but what do you actually get these days for your small group adventure tour with one of the big tour operators.

Some years back, I worked for a Small Group Adventure Tour company. I spent 6 years leading tours in India/Nepal, South East Asia and Europe. Back then, the company had a strong responsible travel ethic which was one of the reasons I loved working for them.

One of the ethics that is an inherent belief I hold, is that travel (even group tour travel) should give you the option to be as independent as possible, with only as much hand holding as you wish. All additional costs should be transparent and you should not be penalised into paying more for your meals and souvenirs just because you are on a Group Tour.

Independent travel is something I did for many years before I started working as a Tour Leader and the fact that our tours weren’t like the big group tours in Europe that took groups on compulsory ‘Shopping’ or ‘Eating’ trips was something I loved and was proud of. As tour leaders, we never accepted commission for recommending clients purchase in a certain store, nor eat at a particular restaurant. The idea is abhorrent to me and goes against everything I believe travel to be about. In fact, the Tour Operator I worked for had a strict policy of Anti-Commission when I was employed by them. If any of the Tour leaders were found to be accepting Commission from any shops, it was a dismissible offence.

In recent times, many changes have been seen in the Adventure Tour Operating scene with some companies going bust and others merging, or being bought out. With less small players in the game, the larger companies are getting bigger and perhaps a loss in integrity and ethics has happened along the way.Indian Rupees

One negative change which has taken place in the Tour Business in India is the ‘Commission’ system. Obviously with 20 years experience of travelling independently and working with groups in India, I know a lot of locals and have many friends in all sectors of the tourism industry. Some of my local contacts have recently made me aware of an ‘official’ policy of Tour Leaders being forced to take the groups to specific shops and restaurants and an official ‘kick-back’ or commission is paid directly to the Tour Operators head office.

As a Small Group Tour Operator, I know all about the rise in costs of running a tour. In India particularly, over the past 6 years, accommodation and transport costs have risen enormously, some have as much as doubled in that time. How can these large tour companies still charge the same price they did 6 or more years ago for their tours. Yes, they do have the buying power to get much better deals from their hotel and transport suppliers, and perhaps they are choosing less expensive options, but surely their base costs have also risen to a degree. Perhaps they are subsidising their tour profits with this new Commission System.

Market in India

Where are the ethics in this? For your $2000 two-week group tour, how would you feel if your restaurant bills and shopping costs were subsidising the cheap cost of the tour, and that you are paying anywhere from 25-40% more than if you were travelling on your own or with a company that does not subscribe to this commission system, and that your $2000 two-week tour just got a whole lot more expensive?

Incredible Indian Tours do not take clients to shops or restaurants for commission. If you do want to go shopping we  take you to markets or recommend local artisans shops where you can get good quality goods for a fair price without commission.  For those times when meals are not included, we also recommend restaurants, which may be your leaders favourite, simply because they’re great places to eat.

Just something to think about.