With so much uncertainty ahead with the economy, skyrocketing fuel prices, and the drastic drop of the Dollar against the Euro over the past couple years; many people have been concerned about planning travel. In fact, during the 2008 season, most of Europe has seen a sharp drop in tourism for these very reasons.
We at Culture Discovery haven’t felt the negative impact. To the contrary, while many in the industry have reported a 60% or more decline in business, we sold out our entire 2008 season. As the dollar weakened and the economy in the states became less certain, our bookings sharply increased.
Our guests repeatedly tell us that they chose us because we offer so much at such a fair price, because our pricing is all-inclusive, and because we protect our guests from currency fluctuations. In a nutshell, while travel-related costs have been skyrocketing and the world economies have slowed, we have found a working formula to keep the prices low compared to others and guarantee that our guests will pay the price they are quoted, no matter what.
With that in mind, as our guests experience our little slice of life in Italy, they very often ask us both why and how we are able to afford to do it. Well, here’s how:
1. All-Inclusive Travel means you can completely budget your vacation
This addresses the WHY question. We want you to feel comfortable before you come. When our guests book with us, they know that it is all covered. When you look at our prices, at first glance they may seem higher than travel on your own or the traditional budget big bus tours, but all of the hidden costs with those are what really get you in the end. With the big budget bus tours and travel on your own, your initial costs can easily double or triple once you start factoring in food that is not included (our single greatest cost), additional transportation costs, entry fees, ‘optional’ guided tours, etc.
To the contrary, we include everything to the point that you could conceivably spend a week in Italy with Culture Discovery and never pull your wallet out of your pocket. All the while, you will have an amazing first-class experience in Italy like no other.
2. Location, ownership and direct sales can mean huge savings
This addresses the HOW question. Once our guests have spent a week with us, they really get a sense of everything we offer for the price, and many ask us how we are not losing money at our prices. It all comes down to our location, ownership and direct sales.
Location is a huge factor. We are in a border area between Rome, Tuscany and Umbria… extremely close to all of it, but not specifically in any of those places. Our area is not as touristy as many of the places we go to on excursions, so our home base costs are much lower than they would be if we were based in one of the tourist traps. The benefits of this are twofold. This allows us to offer our guests more of a real Italian cultural experience, and we have lower costs that we can pass on to our guests in the form of offering more for less money.
Ownership is another big factor. We own most of what we offer. We do not operate as agents for a series of tourism service providers, so we don’t have to tack on profit for the providers. This allows us to keep costs down and pass it along in the form of lower prices and better service.
The vast majority of our marketing is internet-based, direct to our guest. We don’t have the massive overhead associated with printing and distributing brochures to travel agents, taking ads out in countless travel magazines, etc. Furthermore, while we do work with agents, 90% of our guests book directly through us, so commissions are a very small part of our overhead. Again, this allows us to keep prices much lower while offering much more.
3. Our prices are fixed in your currency.
Suppose you are an American, and last October you had planned a trip to Italy for August on your own or with a company that charges Euros, and you had to pay 90 days before your arrival. Assume the budget for your trip will have been 2,100 Euros per person. In October, you will have figured that the trip would cost around US$2900. But when May came around and it was time to pay, the dollar had dropped against the Euro, and those 2,100 Euros actually cost you US$3,360. If you were traveling as a couple, nothing about your trip would have changed and no prices would have necessarily increased, but the cost of your trip just went up almost a thousand dollars.
CultureDiscovery.com protects you against this by offering all-inclusive packages at a fixed price, in your currency. The price you are quoted the day you book is the price you will pay, period. If you want to pay in US Dollars, once you have booked and made your deposit, you are locked in at that price in US Dollars, no matter what happens in the currency markets in the following months. If you prefer to pay in Australian Dollars, the price remains as such. British Pounds are guaranteed in British Pounds, and Euros are guaranteed in Euros.
We’re able to do this because we have operating costs in both Euros and Dollars, plus we have some guests that pay in US dollars, others in Australian dollars, others in Euros, etc. Doing so causes us to make more money one week and less another, but in the end, it all balances out for us and our guests get greater peace of mind.