Kilimanjaro Tour Operators
There are approximately 350 different Kilimanjaro Tour Operators, all aiming to satisfy clients across a broad range of anticipated performance standards. We classify these broadly as follows.
Budget Kilimanjaro Operators
In the pursuit of the most competitive prices on offer, some of the very best cost-cutters will aim to spend only around USD 20 per climber per week on food; will reuse unused provisions from previous climbs, and won't mind about a lack of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins or providing western clients with a diet that many will find difficulty obtaining appetite for, or metabolising. Budget trek companies will not have access to the best staff as they command unaffordably high salaries, and will typically use equipment that Mid-Range companies will argue - quite convincingly - is simply not fit for purpose on a high altitude expedition.
While many will succeed to summit on a budget operation, a growing majority of climbers do not waste to take the risk that corner-cutting implies, preferring instead to have access to more experienced staff, better equipment, more provisions, and a higher level of professionalism and expertise in the management and oversight of their climb.
Budget climbs may be said to range from USD 800 - USD 1,600.
Mid-Range Kilimanjaro Operators
Seeing that so much time and cost is already invested in travelling to Tanzania, training to obtain the requisite level of physical fitness, and purchasing all the specialist clothing and equipment, the vast majority of climbers will nowadays book a Kilimanjaro climb that falls into this budget bracket, effectively paying an acceptable premium for mountain grade equipment, well trained and motivated staffing, and good and varied food that is high in easily digestible carbohydrate, together with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins. A mid-range Kilimanjaro operator will typically spend around USD 150 - USD 200 per person on food.
A mid-range climb will generally cost around USD 1,600 - USD 3,200.
Top-End Kilimanjaro Operators
Sadly, these are a dying breed with many operations suffering climber numbers below 100 per year, which is barely high enough to sustain them, unless they are able to diversify their services and share their staffing with mid-range operators - effectively sub-contracting them back when work becomes available.
Since top-end operators generally have so few clients they will usually have profit margins of USD 1,000 - 2,000 per client, which, in consideration of the overheads and operating costs involved with motivating a dedicated management team year round, is not as excessive as it may sound. Conversely, mid-range operations will usually work with a margin between USD 300 and USD 800. Where an agent is involved in the sales process, these margins are effectively halved.
With a necessity to work with such a high per climber margin, there is considerable pressure to justify the resultant high cost of a climb, with top-end operations resorting to methods that mid-range operators would often describe as 'gimmicks', in order to define themselves as attractive to discerning clientèle. These measures often involve a top heavy structure of group leaders, liaison officers, etc, functioning as overseers to the chief guides which themselves are considered the best people to lead climbs as far as mid-range operators are concerned.
Top-end operators will often accentuate the need for climbs to be equipped with 'safety' equipment for which - paradoxically - mid-range operators are able to present cogent arguments that they are largely unnecessary and indeed slow down the safest means of ensuring improvement in an otherwise dangerous medical condition, ie. rapid descent.
All that said, top-end operations are nonetheless attractive to VIPs who don't need to justify the additional cost, and may feature fine wines and champagne, food pre-prepared by a Michelin 3* chef, and guides who are used to working with people like Roman Abramovich. Top-end climbs cost around USD 3,200 - USD 7,000.