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May 2007 Vol. 33, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Costs of Dive Shop Travel

from the May, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Undercurrent subscriber Tom Harvey (Hillsdale, NJ) wrote in about a topic that no doubt many of you have pondered while planning a dive trip.

Dear Ben,

This letter is about a sticky problem. Dive travel is getting out of reach for the less than affluent – prices are huge.

In planning a trip to Indonesia for my wife and me, I learned that a large local dive shop was taking a group there, so I checked it out. Nice people, but the price was a rip-off. A 10 percent discount for a group is pretty standard, as are free spaces for the organizers. I do not know what the airlines do for bulk rates. The shop put $1,404 as the rate per person, excluding the fact that two of them are traveling free.

A lot of less-than-worldly travelers might be willing to pay for [dive shops’] booking services. But I think they should be aware of the true costs involved and not be treated as “dive shop groupies” who have the honor of traveling with their betters. I think this issue might be a little thorny for you to handle, but it was bothering me and I needed to let it out. Many of these operations are unethical.

* * * * *

Dear Tom,

There’s no question that dive travel costs have increased dramatically, but all travel costs have. In many cases, the weakness of the American dollar alone has pushed up land cost 25 percent or more in just a few years. When it comes to “unethical,” I think a couple of bromides apply: for the seller, “charge what the market will bear,” and for the buyer, “buyer beware.” If the costs are fully stated, there are no hidden costs or later add-ons, it seems to me that it’s an ethical business transaction.

The loss of business to the Internet has thrust many dive shops into the travel business so they make their money where they can, which includes selling the free spots they get and marking up packages to pay for their costs and make a profit. For example, a dive store selling out the Galapagos Aggressor can earn more than $11,000. In return, travelers get a hassle-free trip with like-minded people from their community. If those benefits aren’t worth the extra cost, then divers should do as you did and say “no thanks.”

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