Sometimes in the travel industry, a deal really is a deal – you can get low airfare and 7 nights at a hotel in Vegas, for example, and no one is the worse for it. This isn’t always the case in Africa or in many other parts of the world, where the divide between the classes is deep. A cheap price tag for the tourist often means lower or no wages for a porter or guide, and often times, mistreatment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the industry controlling tourism to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
For many climbers and adventure seekers, ascending Kili is an achievement long sought after. But the price tag can be daunting (upwards of $6k per person) and so, many would-be climbers will comb the Internet searching for cheap deals. Problem is, these cheap deals are very often to the detriment, and even abuse, of the welfare of the workers whose families and livelihood depends on Kili. Unethical, local operators overbook their climbs, overload and underpay their porters and guides, and don’t adhere to high safety standards.
In fact recently, we’ve learned of instances on one of the more popular routes, where guides and porters were forced to sleep outside in the freezing cold, as their “sleeping tents” are used to accommodate the clients of operators who have overbooked their tours. Many operators in the West/US aren’t even aware of these common practices. Such disregard for human welfare happens too often. Even though additional legislation has been put into effect to guard against these outrages, they still occur on a daily basis and workers are often so poor (and illiterate, making them unable to read their “contracts”) that they will accept these unfair working conditions because of a lack of employment elsewhere.
Therefore, be mindful when price shopping and do your research to make sure you are booking with an ethical and responsible outfitter. Work with tour operators who are truly committed to responsible travel and look into monitoring organizations such as the Kilimanjaro Porter Assistance Project. Everyone wants a deal, but not at the expense of another human being.
Remember that the more “off the beaten path” routes and regions tend to carry with them a higher price tag – which has little to do with the level of luxury and much to do with safety and fair practices. It takes a small team to help one person climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and every member of that team must be compensated fairly and treated justly. If a price seems to good to be true, it usually is.
At Global Sojourns, we are committed to working with responsible, ethical suppliers with good safety practices and we always have an eye on good value for money for our clients.