Cost-Benefit analysis in expeditions

With the recent meteoric rise in the number of adventurous school expeditions across the globe, STC Director Adrian Ferraro looks at the cost benefit analysis of different forms of expedition and how to provide your pupils with a safe, sustainable and life changing travel opportunity at a price that doesn't cost the earth Ķ Expedition: the very word conjures up images of exotic cultures, strange foods and stunning landscapes, and for young people they offer a fantastic learning environment that is far removed from everyday life. There can be no doubt as to the benefits of travel and adventure. †If there's a downside, though, most people would usually agree it's the price tag. † Quality expeditions are potentially expensive, but they don't need to cost a small fortune. The phrase "cost benefit analysis" isn't usually associated with activities such as self-development, adventure and expeditions, but perhaps it should be? So is it possible to reduce costs without reducing the experience, benefits or the safe running of a trip? Absolutely. The key is to do two things: 1) use the school's expertise where possible, and 2) make sure the style of the expedition meets your requirements. This is certainly not rocket science, but the affect on an expedition price can be dramatic. A month long senior school expedition can vary in price by as much as £800 per person depending on how you approach it. A 16 day expedition in Morocco might cost £1,000 through one provider, or £1,450 with another. Is the 45% higher price tag worth it? What's more, with some schools sending away 40 or 50 pupils every year, the potential savings across a school are huge. †And with many pupils using fundraising to obtain a place on these trips, it is important to remember the impact such expeditions have on the school economy and the wider community. Reducing costs while retaining the educational benefits, adventurous nature of a trip and safety, leaves greater fundraising potential for other projects that a school may plan. Alternatively, and here's a thought, more young people might actually be able to undertake such experiences and few would argue against that. Training and Leaders Unless your expedition requires specialist skills, or you particularly want to outsource the whole package, most schools can provide any necessary pre-trip training for an expedition. Not all school expedition companies are keen on schools using this approach though, but that is hardly a surprise when they can charge £300 - £400 per person to deliver it for you. If you were a qualified plumber, would you call British Gas to fix your boiler? Probably not. Many schools, but particularly those in the independent sector, are blessed with staff who are suitably qualified to lead adventurous activities around the UK. This expertise along with experience of adventure travel is the major pre-requisite of an expedition leader and can be combined with experienced local guides and a solid safety, back-up and support structure of leading adventure and expedition companies. Some companies insist on supplying their own leaders, at obvious extra cost, others don't. If you want to get maximum value for money, make sure you choose an expedition provider that allows you to use the expertise you already have, or makes use of qualified in-country leaders, rather than insists on using UK expedition leaders. Style of expedition Whether you are a prep school looking for an introduction to adventure travel or a senior school requiring a long-haul expedition with project work, there are dozens of expedition and adventure companies in the UK offering safe and highly rewarding trips. Different companies have different approaches, but generally, an expedition is likely to fall into one of two camps: those where pupils have varying levels of input into the planning and execution of a trip, and those where an itinerary is tailor-made for them and arranged in advance. Unsurprisingly, there is a trade off between the two. Expeditions where pupils have day to day "control" when travelling, such as arranging transport, accommodation and managing budgets, can go a long way to developing self-reliance, confidence and problem solving skills amongst the participants. However there is a price to pay and it is that the quality of the itinerary often suffers. Organising logistics when you arrive in your destination takes time and effort, inevitably leaving less time to spend on travel, project work or adventure. In contrast, expeditions that are tailor-made but pre-arranged are usually significantly cheaper and enable a group to do, see and experience far more. Some say this approach diminishes the self-development opportunities of a trip, but many argue in return that these occur as a natural outcome of coping with challenge and adventure, rather than as a by-product of a certain approach. After all, both options allow ample opportunity to experience foreign cultures, meet and work with local people, challenge pre-conceptions, be tested physically, emotionally and mentally, and to see some of the world's most amazing places. Sustainability By their very nature, expeditions often involve travel amongst cultures and environments that are extremely fragile, and we should never forget that we travel as guests in someone else's home. By minimising the impact on your destination, both environmentally and culturally, while at the same time maximizing the positive economic impact of your trip, an expedition can be a force for good. Ensuring your expedition, especially if it includes any project work, is carried out in a responsible and sustainable fashion, should be a key consideration when choosing who to travel with. There area some horrific examples out their of large expedition companies complete disregard for their long term impact on communities. Those expedition companies that offer a more comprehensive support and quality logistics package in country such as porters, private transport and local guides are also pumping more money into the local economy than those expedition companies that expect a group to survive an a below-poverty line budget whilst organising the expedition logistics. The Adventure Potential Expeditions give our young people a unique platform on which to develop into self-confident, cultural and environmentally conscious individuals. There is no one right way in which to organise school expeditions, and it is all too easy to buy into the popular processed package. Think outside the box and you might just find that you have a better experience. As many expeditions are self funded, we as adults have a duty to ensure that the expedition experience for both student and teacher alike, is one of enjoyment and great adventure, and that it doesn't cost them the earth.