Monday, May 21, 2007

ISA: Too expensive at average quality

Despite the beautiful site, I found the congress quite expensive, especially as I had to pay it all by myself. And in general I found Cavtat and Dubrovnik quite expensive for the quality offered. I spent several holidays in Italy, and I have to say that the food in Italy is much better and similar prices. The people are far more friendly and you are less treated like a walking euro/dollar symbol.

For example, the gala dinner food was not very good. First of all, they only served champagne at the reception on the top terrace, not even water or orange juice. When I asked for orange juice, the waiter said: No. Everywhere else, they would have organised something, but not here. Big Minus. The buffet food was mass production. They even managed to have factory cakes as dessert: you know the one you can buy in the supermarket next door in boxes of 100 or 200! And the fish risotto was far too salted.

Next comes my hotel room. I booked through the conference organiser's recommended travel agent, because I assumed that they would make sure that the deals are fair. So I paid 70 Euros for a very very simple room in a flat complex 5 minutes from Hotel Croatia, and with breakfast at Hotel Croatia. As I stayed one day longer, I was curious how much the room in the neighbouring bed and breakfast would cost. I paid 20 Euros!!! So in fact they made at least 40 Euros per day. This was a complete rip-off, and I think it was irresponsible of the conference organisers not to check whether the deals offered by the agents were fair!!!

Then the day trip to Montenegro cost 90 Euro. I didn't go, because I was still upset by the way they "stole" 5 times 40 Euros from me. 90 Euro per person for a day trip is ridiculous. The bus costs at most 15 Euros per person, then lunch 20 Euros, and the guide 5 Euros, so in total 40 Euros at most! Again every single person was ripped off by 50 Euros!! Again, I blame the conference organisers for not making sure the deal very fair.

I did tell one of the organisers and someone from ISA that I found the price far too high for the services offered. And I think it is especially unfair for the many visitors from poorer countries. OK, I shut up now... :-)


JZ said...

I did not attend the conference but I could imagine how I would react if I found out they "stole" the hard-earned dollar by taking advantage of the information asymmetry.
I used to think that in this world of internet, a consumer could get enough information simply by clicking the button in so as to make a sound judgment. I might be wrong on this point. Nothing can compare to a local know-it-all.
Next 2010 conference will be held in Beijing, and I am glad I already have a bunch of friends there.

Anonymous said...

I'd looked up the Hotel Croatia's rates on the net before the conference and the standard hotel prices were slightly cheaper for the week of the conference by booking direct with the hotel! And I always assumeed when places were bought in bulk they would be significantly cheaper. Your posts look like it was a beautiful location.

Tom Weidig said...

Exactly. There was NO DISCOUNT AT ALL. They only made profit out of the conference participants!

I did not look for alternatives, because I trusted the organisers to make sure that the prices were fair and at a bulk discount.

Anonymous said...

Summer season can be very frustrating for us who live (or lived) on the Croatian coast. Tourists are lucky, they can run away after one or two weeks - and we stay as a backup for the greedy merchants. For the whole three months... Nevertheless, it is comforting to know there are some things you can always rely on :)
I talked to people from the organising team, too. It seems this was the first time for them to organise the event of such significance and complexity (or, for some of them, any event at all). They were relatively young and unexperienced, but really enthusiastic and helpful. And I know how demanding this can be. We organised an international workshop last year in Dubrovnik. Luckily, my supervisor attended many conferences and knows how to bargain - and his wife is even better :). Also, we negotiated with the hotel directly, without the help of a tourist agency (that did save a lot of money, but cost us a lot of extra work and nerves).
Overall, I think the team in Cavtat did a good job, apart from the financial aspect that could have been better organised. Cavtat is too expensive in general, and the staff in hotel "Croatia" are definitely not adequatly trained for working in the 5 stars hotel.
Still, drinking every night at the "Poseidon" bar was solely my decision :) And all the money I spent is (for me) meaningless when compared to the great people I met and a great time I had with them. Now I like my stuttering so much that I even consider repeating all that in Telford in September :)