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May 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 41, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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How Any Diver Can Negotiate Group Dive Discounts

from the May, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the main story, Undercurrent subscriber Jim Willoughby compares the costs of booking group trips to various locations. He doesn't do it for a living, he just gets a group of his diver friends together and handles the bookings, negotiating discounts with dive resorts and liveaboards.

"Joe Diver can negotiate," he says. "It depends on the size of your group, and on the flexibility of the resort. But if I am bringing 10 divers, I often either pay for just eight of them, or negotiate a 20 percent discount. What I save, I spread among the group."

Subscriber Guy Charlebois (Laval, Quebec) is another non-travel-professional who regularly negotiates dive group trip discounts. While his wife is a travel agent and handles the flights and hotels, Charlebois researches dive operators and asks what they can do for him. When his group of 12 divers wanted to go to Cozumel last December, he e-mailed four dive operators and asked what they could offer. He chose Dressel Divers as it offered a 20 percent discount off its "Gorilla" package (eight reef dives, one night dive and two cenote dives) if he paid in advance. "For other trips, I usually get 10 to 20 percent off the regular price if I have a group of 10 or more."

Ann Louise Tuke of the dive travel agency Caradonna Adventures says some resorts offer free spots for groups with as a few as five or six paying divers. While some resorts do require a group to be formally organized through a travel agent or dive shop, there are plenty, especially smaller ones, that offer reduced rates to personally organized groups. Tuke says it's easier to get discounts when it's not high season. "And it doesn't hurt to call a travel agency and ask for help in getting discounts. Caradonna tells divers where to go for discounts, even if it won't get a booking commission. "If someone calls us asking, "'How many people do I need to get a free space,' we have that information and pass it on to groups, whether it's a formal group or a bunch of friends," Tuke says.

Willoughby says the Philippines seems to be most amenable to giving a package deal. Indonesia hasn't been as flexible. The Caribbean is more flexible, but he says their standard rates can be much more expensive. "Like at Anthony's Key in Roatan, the rate is considerably more than a comparable package almost anywhere else, so negotiating doesn't bring it down to an attractive price."

To get the best deal, Willoughby recommends researching and booking early. "I start a year out. I'll research a liveaboard or resort's rack rates online, and then I reach out with questions like 'I want to bring some friends, do you offer a group rate? What kind of arrangements should we make?' They get back with an offer and generally it's pretty good. If I counter-offer, sometimes they come back with a different program, or sometimes they say 'No thanks.'" Willoughby is proud of the "killer deal" he got when booking a Raja Ampat liveaboard for 2016. "They gave me this current year's rate, plus a discount to that, so a 12-day, all-inclusive trip that would cost $4,600 per person is only costing my group $3,100 each."

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