Tour operator Globus has announced it will implement a “currency surcharge” on 85 percent of its Europe tours. According to Travel Weekly (free registration required), the surcharge averages five percent of the per-person tour price, and will range from $20 to $190 on 2008 trips booked after January 16.
Unfortunately, surcharges are not a new thing. From resort fees at hotels to fuel surcharges on flights, this particular form of evasive pricing has become all too common in the last few years. However, this is the first time I’ve seen the “currency surcharge” move from a tour company.
No one wants to feel like their travel provider is playing a sleight of hand game in the booking process (or any other time, for that matter), and that’s exactly what the surcharge phenomenon resembles. Assessing the value of a tour (or hotel room or flight) means knowing the total price up front, not the base price plus a bunch of creatively named extras.
Over the last few years, one of the primary selling points of tours and cruises has been avoiding fluctuating foreign currencies. By paying in dollars in advance, you save yourself the exchange-rate uncertainty that comes with paying in euros (or another currency). But if everyone is going to start tacking on currency surcharges, it renders the selling point moot.
The problem isn’t that Globus, or any other company, needs to raise rates to stay profitable in the face of a weak dollar. Instead, it’s that the company didn’t build it into the total cost to begin with. Globus explains the tacked-on surcharge (which is in addition to annual price increases) by saying it didn’t want to guess in advance at what the exchange rate would be, but no matter when a company sets its prices for the year, a fluctuating exchange rate is always going to be a risk. So why not spare customers the piecemeal pricing and give them an honest view of the total cost?