Twenty years ago the tried and tested Toyota Landcruiser Troop carrier was the mainstay of budget orientated touring. Originally designed for the military (hence the name ‘troopy’) it is part of the reliable Toyota brand.
Over the years though, there has been development of other variations of vehicles designed to carry tourist in different locations. The driving force behind these designs has been to make them a bit more comfortable and ‘classy’ and improve the quality of touring.
With the current range of vehicles available, the only way of achieving this is to modify existing vehicles. The most popular way is to build pod style passenger modules that can be mounted onto a new range of 4WD trucks.
These modified vehicles are much larger and carry around 16 passengers. The purchase price is up around $170,000! (I can get three troopy’s for that price!)
As opposed to the Troopy that is manufactured as standard by Toyota, costs around $60,000, is smaller and the only vehicle to carry 9 passengers!
Ok, so the main discerning aspect of the Troopy is that it has side facing seats in the back, meaning there is not as much legroom and you have to look at your travelling partners! Whilst many say that may be uncomfortable, many argue that it creates a much more sociable group than those that are just staring at the back of seats!
As we know, there are a number of factors that determine the ‘quality’ of a tour.
I mean, you can have a brand new comfortable vehicle, but if you end up with a dud group, an inexperienced guide, a crap itinerary and have paid an arm & a leg for the tour, not much quality there!
On the other hand, if you have a great guide, a fun group, an itinerary that isn’t just ticking boxes that was an affordable price but the vehicle was a bit uncomfortable, then I would suggest the ‘quality’ of the tour would be more than comparable.
As such, for the time being anyway, for most of our tours we will continue to use the trusty old troopy!
This has always been a contentious issue for me!
What size should truly be considered as a small group tour?
It really annoys me when I see tour companies that operate 20+ seat minibuses promoting their tour as a small group tour! I guess in comparison to the old standard Coach tour comprising up to 48 people, it is somewhat smaller! At one point years ago, there was even a 30 seat coach promoting itself as a small group tour!
Obviously the reason for the size of the group is dictated by a number of factors such as style of tour, cost of tour and target audience. Matching all these things to be at an optimum is tricky and hence it can be hard for you when deciphering the promotional blurbs and deciding on a tour.
From experience and research based on sporting teams, business focus groups and educational learning guidelines, the optimum group size is 5-7 members.
The group size that continues to function effectively is 4-9 members.
Groups are known to function cohesively with a size up to 12 members.
I have noticed recently that some of my colleagues who specialise in the more personalised style of touring have come up with a new term; ‘Micro‘ to further distinguish themselves from the broad spectrum that is ‘small group’. Most of those guys are using vehicles with a maximum of 6 or 7 passengers so that is a fairly apt description.
This is how I reckon tour group sizes should be referenced:
Micro: 2-7 people
Small: 8-12 people
Medium: 13-30 people
Large: 30+ people.
Maybe the medium bracket could be broken up to ‘Mid’ (13-25) and ‘Medium’ (26-35)!
Obviously when considering out-laying your hard earned dollars on what is hopefully going to be a lifelong memorable experience, many of the following factors will come into play:
- Your expectations of the tour
- Group size
- Destinations included
- Cost of tour – Budget limitations
- Value for money – based on previous factors
All tours currently operated by Kakadu 4WD Safaris have a maximum group size of 9 passengers.
Any variations from this if third party operators or larger vehicles are used for any reason, will always be advised or noted prior to confirmation of any bookings.