When I saw the headline, I was sad for the savvy company that has turbo-charged consumer purchasing power through craftily-worded online feeding frenzies.
Lately, Groupon has branched into bucket list travel. Cook Islands. Taiwan and Beijing. And today, one that made me sit up – 10 days in Kenya, at an incredible price of approx USD2800 including air fare from Washington DC.
The blurb paints a sepia washed vignette of Out of Africa. Even as nostalgia billowed, I was crestfallen. I shook my head. How can they do it? The fine print shows how.
- Right off, travel is blacked out during the annual Migration months of June-August, which are, bar none, the best months to visit Kenya. Groupon’s “hook” quoted price is during April when long rains blanket Kenya. Chances of seeing game? Low to non-existent. Worst time to visit Kenya? April.
- Park and resort fees of $500 not included.
- No mention of group size. Could be 5. Could be 50. On the savannah where you’re convening with nature, the last thing you need is a crowd.
- Minibuses as transportation. One of these can take a max of 16. You could end up playing monkey in the middle while missing out on the cheetahs.
- Professional naturalist ONLY if travelling with 15 or more. Fancy being stuck with a driver who is not a professionally qualified ranger. When you see an unusual impala, or ask him why lions have manes, he may not know. And Google is not an option in the middle of Africa.
- While their accommodations are good, they are ALL Serena Lodges. Groupon obviously negotiates with a single supplier in order to hammer down the price. The downside is, it’s like staying at the Marriott for 10 days. After the first couple they all look – and taste – the same.
- Air travel on Ethiopian Airways. Rated as an inconsistent 3 star on Skytrax
Mentally, I racked up the extras to Groupon’s $2800. At a minimum:
- Add $500 park fees
- Add $2000 for Migration safari, which run more than Christmas time rates ($4900 for Groupon’s)
- Comparable flight from Toronto: add $400
- the intangible factor of a safari land-cruiser and a window seat guarantee, a driver who is a qualified ranger, and small personalised groups in boutique lodges and tented camps.
- travelling with an insider/expert, born in Kenya but now at home in the West- PRICELESS
Even without the priceless factor, Groupon is already at $5700 for EYHO’s $5000
I’m shaking my head. But this time, it’s at Groupon Getaways. No wonder the share price is quaking.