As a young person, I was told that “There is no such thing as a free lunch”; “Only the sun rises for free”, and “Anything gratis has no value”.
In other words, cheap is unsustainable. You get what you pay for.
Pre Covid-19, we saw airlines offering international flights for less than €10. Given the costs of planes, fuel and staff, that was hugely unsustainable.
There have been low wages among cruise ship staff, and incidences of malpractice among recruiting companies – some have financially exploited staff from poor, remote countries.
Tour guides have been undervalued and underpaid too. There is a disconnect here, because tour brochures continue to promise us fabulous vacations with excellent guides. Yet the low advertised costs mean tour operators are having to cut corners, which is both unsustainable and damaging.
When travel restarts, can we build back better? Is this a chance for us to reward tourism professionals with fair pay? Let’s not inadvertently contribute to a demand for cheap labour.
1. Excellent services
Imagine a plumber. He comes to repair a leaking tap in your house. It takes him half an hour and he presents the bill.
So much money for so little time effort? You could have done it yourself!
The perception is that the time the professional works is short and we think we could have done it ourself. But that is not true. The plumber is so fast because he has done it so often and he knows where to start repairing. He spent lots of time studying and gaining experience.
The same goes for professionals preparing our vacations. The investments staff make in training, diligence, and time are what makes a tour amazing. That all costs money. Health insurance and safety precaution costs raised in 2020 too. Would you ask a doctor for a discount on your surgery? Or would you recognise that his training, experience and expertise is worth the price quoted?
2. Free has no perceived value
Psychologically the words “for free” or “3 for the price of 1” have a huge impact on us. We love a bargain. We like to find information or things to do on tour for free, gratis, without costs. But we also recognise that ‘free’ suggests that a product or service has little or no value.
For example, a client of our company paid to train a class of freelance tour guides in his area. He selected the most promising tour guides and aimed to raise quality standards – so the guides could make more money and deliver better service for his guests. But he made the training free for his guides.
Did the students commit to the training? No. The reason for the lack of attendance was: “If the students had to pay for the training, they would attend!” Being offered a service for free didn’t make them feel they were getting true value.
Most of us are no exception to that rule. With ‘free’ solutions at our fingertips, we sign up for webinars and forget to attend them. Why? For Free, probably not that great anyway.
Covid-19 puts us in a unique situation. We can’t wait to travel again safely. To be in the nature, enjoying new cultures and different food, with amazing tour guides to look after us. Do we want it for free, or are we ready to pay a fair price for it?
If we want a cheap vacation, we can lie on the beach and avoid cultural exchange. Or we can go backpacking, taking overnight buses and figuring out itineraries. Or we can put up with a mediocre experience.
But if we want service excellence and Covid-secure professionalism, let’s do the right thing and pay a fair price for that experience.
Quality. Escorted travel should not be cheap. Only the sun rises for free.