The Myth of Cheap Adventure Travel

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I subscribe to a number of adventure travel newsletters as I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for interesting new opportunities to visit far off places. They also are sources of good information and stories from time to time as well. Take this one from Adventures Within Reach entitled Debunking the $1000 Kilimanjaro Trek which was recently published in their blog.

The article takes to task the notion of paying $1000 for a Kili climb by running the numbers and showing that if a traveler actually did pay that little, that meant that the porters and guides were severely underpaid. The article reasons that for a group of four climbers, traditionally there are roughly a staff of 22, including a guide, cook, and 20 porters carrying gear. (From my own Kili experience these numbers are not out of bounds at all) The entrance fees for the entire expedition would come to about $3930, leaving just $70 from the total of $4000 paid by the trekkers, to cover the expenses of the climb.

The article goes on to link to the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project which is designed to make sure that the guides and porters are well taken care of and receive adequate pay and good gear for their efforts on the mountain. Unlike their Himalayan counterparts, the Kili porters are not yet as well organized and connected.

This article does make you stop and think about our economic impact on the places we visit. When I went to Tanzania, I selected a locally owned guide service that was well known for taking care of it’s guides and porters. I knew that my money was staying in Tanzania and directly helping people there. I also payed considerably more than $1000 even after a discount for going in the off season. One thing the article doesn’t mention however, is that we give our guides and porters excellent tips at the end of the climb, which definitely went a long way for making their pay much more attractive. Over the course of the climb, they more than earned the tips. We also donated extra gear to the porters as well, as good quality items are not always easy to find.

So the next time you think about taking a trip like this one, to some far flung corner of the globe, think about the impact your dollars or euros will have there. Perhaps it’s not always best to find the cheapest trip, but instead go with a reputable service. After all, sustainable travel can have more than one meaning.

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