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Organized Tours

Old 05-12-13, 06:48 AM
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Organized Tours

I wonder why the organized bike tours are so expensive.
Per day cost of almost all of them are more than one would pay in a good all-inclusive resort stay of 3-4 star quality or a packaged bus tour. Bike tours do not even include airfare.
Does it really cost that much or is it just a lucrative business model?
Before arguing for the tour operators for providing support staff etc., consider that the all-inclusive resorts have to maintain a huge staff, too, for equivalent services or more. The accommodations/services provided by bike tour operators are nowhere near the exotic locations or comfort level of the all-inclusive resorts.
I live in the USA and have nothing against capitalism but why shouldn't bike touring costs at least the same if not less than equivalent tours by bus?
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Old 05-12-13, 06:54 AM
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-- Accommodation per night
-- Meals
-- Bicycles
-- Panniers
-- Support Vehicle costs (vehicle rental, fuel, insurance)
-- Wages for Tour Leaders and Support
-- Insurance


1. Do you have a specific tour in mind when you ask this question? Some of the ones I've looked at haven't seemed outrageous.


2. If the purpose of your post is because you would like to do an organised tour, then you might consider checking what Cycletouring Clubs have to offer. Their organised tours are usually less expensive.

Last edited by Machka; 05-12-13 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 05-12-13, 07:15 AM
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There may also be an economy of scale issue. There are probably fewer people on a bike tour than on a bus tour, and there are probably fewer bike tours than bus tours. We all know that the bigger the package, the lower the cost per unit. Bike tours may be more custom-fit and flexible and less cookie-cutter than bus tours, therefore more difficult to manage. I'm just guessing--I've never actually done either.
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Old 05-12-13, 07:43 AM
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Having considered starting a touring company and therefore having looked at the number... I don't think they are getting rich due in part to the economies of scale thing.
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Old 05-12-13, 07:53 AM
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In addition to the economy of scale thing, there's also how many times a touring company can run a tour in a year.


An all-inclusive resort can offer rooms 365 days a year. They might have peak, off-peak, and shoulder seasons with different rates, but the rooms, meals, etc. are always available.

But a cycling tour might only be run one or two times a year.



I'm still curious what tours the OP is looking at.
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Old 05-12-13, 08:27 AM
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I don't actually know what the cost structure of touring companies are, but your question assumes cost-based pricing, which is basically where a company adds up the cost to conduct the bike tour, then tacks on a profit margin they like to arrive at a price. I suspect that the prices are high simply because, in those companies' estimation, there are enough people that are willing to pay that price. That being said, I'm sure insurance is a big cost, especially in the States. You probably have a better sense of that, staehpj1, since you've looked into starting a touring company
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Old 05-12-13, 09:11 AM
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Organized tour prices vary a great deal of course depending on what services are offered (their costs) and what people are willing to pay, just like any other business. I toured for a week with a fine fellow who organizes and runs one of the largest and oldest organized tours out east each year and he let me in on some of the hidden costs and much of the behind the scenes work that went on. It was surprising how much went into it but that being said, it was still very profitable to say the least. A reasonable annual income was produced by his one or two events a year but it took years and years to build the numbers up and develop a reputation of quality service.
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Old 05-12-13, 09:41 AM
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If a couple of 1 week tours produce a reasonable annual income for a person, that is a good occupation/business.
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Old 05-12-13, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by robow
Organized tour prices vary a great deal of course depending on what services are offered (their costs) and what people are willing to pay, just like any other business. I toured for a week with a fine fellow who organizes and runs one of the largest and oldest organized tours out east each year and he let me in on some of the hidden costs and much of the behind the scenes work that went on. It was surprising how much went into it but that being said, it was still very profitable to say the least. A reasonable annual income was produced by his one or two events a year but it took years and years to build the numbers up and develop a reputation of quality service.
Now I'm curious: what were some of the hidden costs?
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Old 05-12-13, 09:44 AM
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Some numbers that were tossed around at a conference that I attended a couple of weeks ago surprised me. These are taken out of context and from memory:

55% of riders at event rides, e.g., centuries, charity rides etc., were over 55 years old with incomes > $100,000. I wonder what the demographics are for people participating in organized tours. Does the price of an organized bike tour determine who participates (who can afford it) or who participates in organized tours influence the price (what the market will bear)?
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Old 05-12-13, 11:07 AM
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While there may be exceptions, in my experience most tour operators are mom-and-pop operations. We don't have the clout or the volume to get wholesale pricing even if we do repeat business with hotels, restaurants, etc. There are some operations where the owners live where they run tours locally and own the facilities they use for guest accommodations and so can offer lower prices. Being a tour operator is not a sure-fire way to get rich. Most of us do it because we love to bike and want to share it with other cyclists who are willing to pay to have someone attend to the details instead of having to do it themselves (there are of course also people who are independent enough to plan and conduct their own bike trips—more power to them).
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Old 05-12-13, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by ak08820
If a couple of 1 week tours produce a reasonable annual income for a person, that is a good occupation/business.
Of course income as much as anything is very relative, maybe I should have said a nice "ancillary income"
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Old 05-12-13, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by ak08820
I wonder why the organized bike tours are so expensive.
Per day cost of almost all of them are more than one would pay in a good all-inclusive resort stay of 3-4 star quality or a packaged bus tour.
What tours are you looking at?

I looked up some of the Exodus tours, and the one I divided out came to $137/day ... which didn't seem all that expensive to me.
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Old 05-12-13, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by SuperTrouper
Now I'm curious: what were some of the hidden costs?
Oh let's start with liability insurance, accounting fees, taxes, vehicle costs, promotion and marketing, and return on capital... as someone who has run a small business involving bike tours, I can see how the costs mount up. Most of these things are over the heads of people unless they have run their own business, rather than have been employed for their working lives.
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Old 05-13-13, 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
What tours are you looking at?

I looked up some of the Exodus tours, and the one I divided out came to $137/day ... which didn't seem all that expensive to me.
I was looking at REI Travel https://www.rei.com/adventures/trips/namer/zbc.html averaging $500+/day.
Exodus tours are quite attractively priced. Thx.

Last edited by ak08820; 05-13-13 at 04:29 AM.
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Old 05-13-13, 04:44 AM
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Originally Posted by ak08820
I was looking at REI Travel https://www.rei.com/adventures/trips/namer/zbc.html averaging $500+/day.
Exodus tours are quite attractively priced. Thx.

Supply and demand ... and if you want to take an organised tour, it pays to shop around a bit.
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Old 05-13-13, 05:55 AM
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Look at rides like CANDISC and BRAN. They are not expensive.

Some organized tour have a fundraising component, like Cycle Oregon and Adventure Cycling Association tours.

REI tours cater to people who want a "high-end" experience. Check out Backroads. Very pricey.

As Rowan points out, there are costs you are not considering. The comparison to an all-inclusive vacation resort is not appropriate for obvious reasons.
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Old 05-13-13, 06:52 AM
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I've only ever done organised tours with the Elbow Valley Cycle Club, and I've done this tour twice (enjoyed it!):

https://www.elbowvalleycc.org/events/...p?eventid=1500

It's a 3-day Golden Triangle tour in the Canadian Rockies, and the price is $265/person, or $88.33/day which includes camping on a long weekend in the mountains, all your meals and snacks (and they do feed their riders well!), SAG support including carrying most of the gear, medical and mechanical support, T-shirt, and a chance of winning several prizes.

If you were to do the same 3-day tour in the Canadian Rockies on that long weekend, you'd be looking at a minimum of $30/night for accommodation (quite possibly as high as $40), plus about $10/meal = $30/day, plus $5 or $10 for snacks/day ... add that up and you're looking at $65 - $80/day. So $88.33/day for a supported tour isn't bad at all.


Like I said earlier, if you're looking for an organised tour, check out Cycletouring clubs and see what they've got on their schedule.
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Old 05-14-13, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Look at rides like CANDISC and BRAN. They are not expensive.

Some organized tour have a fundraising component, like Cycle Oregon and Adventure Cycling Association tours.

REI tours cater to people who want a "high-end" experience. Check out Backroads. Very pricey.

As Rowan points out, there are costs you are not considering. The comparison to an all-inclusive vacation resort is not appropriate for obvious reasons.
Yes, backroads are expensive, too and their web ad keeps popping up everywhere.
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Old 05-14-13, 06:27 AM
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I've been looking at adventure cycling trips. Their prices seem OK for a supported camping trip; they seem to run $200 a day for a supported camping trip. I imagine the food is pretty good as it the support but you are camping.
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Old 05-14-13, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
I've been looking at adventure cycling trips. Their prices seem OK for a supported camping trip; they seem to run $200 a day for a supported camping trip. I imagine the food is pretty good as it the support but you are camping.
I did their Cycle Vermont trip back in 2010 when our plans for a self-contained tour fell through. Back then, that trip was camping. Now it's an inn-to-inn tour.

The staff was a pleasant group and supportive. We even got one of them to stop off on the way to camp to pick us up a bottle of wine after she broke down the rest stop she was running. The quality of the food was good. However, the particular caterer they used that year was new. Way to much meat and not enough carbs. I think that was an anomoly. The other thing I found lacking was lunch. You made sandwiches in the morning, bagged them up and put them in a cooler. They were then transported to the lunch stop, where there were some other items like potato chips and usually some fruit. The sandwich fixings were not that filling so we found ourselves buying heartier lunches on a couple of hard days. Note that tips were solicited the night befoe the last day of riding.

While I believe it's sold out this year, if next year ACA uses the same route for Cycle Montana that it's using this year, I highly recommend it. I did much of it during a self-contained tour a few years ago. Very nice.

$200/day is high compared to something like Cycle Oregon, which is a higher-end, supported camping event. That runs about $950 for the entire week and includes meals (usually pretty good) and mechanical support (parts extra). But there are reasons for the price difference, including the fact that many of the workers on Cycle Oregon are volunteers and there and economies of scale.
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Old 05-14-13, 02:10 PM
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And Cycle Oregon, last sold out, online, almost as soon as applications were taken , about an Hour, was It?
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Old 05-14-13, 02:15 PM
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Ride the Rockies runs $500. There are a number of state wide camping tours which are very reasonable compared to the prices for Adventure Cycling. Still AC has a lot of rides in some neat areas; I would certainly consider doing them.
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Old 05-15-13, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
And Cycle Oregon, last sold out, online, almost as soon as applications were taken , about an Hour, was It?
In 2012 it sold out in less than 30 min. It did not sell out quickly this year. In fact, there are still some spots for this year. One problem is that they used a different company to handle on-line registration. The company's servers got overwhelmed from the start. Some people simply gave up and decided not to participate.
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Old 05-15-13, 05:25 PM
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Last summer I took the Erie canal tour and it was inexpenisive and well done. I think it was about $ 600 for whole week, including most meals. It also had a very relaxed riding schedule (about 40 to 60 miles per day) and there was also lots to see and do. This did include a SAG wagon and fruit stops.
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