How much does a tour cost?

As CWB – USA’s Executive Director, I’m frequently asked: “How much will this project cost?”

The short answer is: “It depends!”

Why? Because each tour has different logistical and security needs. In the interest of transparency, here’s a deep dive into project costs and an overview of different types of projects.

Basic Costs

Every tour starts with the same basic needs: travel, food, and shelter.

Travel

I budget travel in two categories: Travel to/from the project location, and transportation during the tour itself. This is where we start to see some of the biggest variations in cost. Travel from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico, versus New York to Beirut, Lebanon, is a difference of $1,000.

Next, there’s the cost of getting from our tour HQ to the shows. In Guatemala, we rented a car and the clowns drove themselves ($1,500). Same in Lebanon, but the cost was much less ($400). In Puerto Rico, CWB clown Arturo donated the use of his van, so we covered gas plus wear and tear ($400).

Accommodation

Accommodations are another variable expense. In Cali, Colombia, the clowns stayed in someone’s home ($0). A university donated rooms in Guatemala City($0). In Beirut, we rented an apartment ($700). For both tours to Puerto Rico, we rented space in a private home ($1200). On other tours, teams have slept in churches, in tents, or in NGO accommodation with the partner organization.

My preference is always to keep money local. This means that whenever possible, we look to rent directly from a person. Security, convenience, and comfort (in that order) all impact the decision of where we stay. Ideally, everyone gets their own bed, but that’s not always possible

Food

I typically budget $30 per clown, per day, for food. In places where it is safe to do so, artists can buy their own food and manage their personal food budget. In other situations, the team buys groceries together and splits the effort of food preparation. Frequently, our partners provide meals.

Often, but not always, our audiences are experiencing food scarcity. This adds to the complexity of when we eat and what we eat. On our most recent tour to Mexico, the artists were invited to eat with migrants in the shelters. The clowns were hungry after those meals, and so would buy additional food to consume in private. On other tours, audiences will offer a meal or refreshment as thanks.

Cost and Audience

There is no direct correlation between how much a tour costs and how many people it reaches. Guatemala was among our most expensive tours, yet it reached a relatively small number of people. Our commitment is to produce tours that fit the needs of the region and local partner(s). In Guatemala, the volcanic eruption impacted tiny communities, so the artists found themselves performing for intimate groups of people, rather than huge crowds.

Our tours respond to situations as they unfold. While I have a general idea of where many of our tours will be this year, most of the logistics remain unknown. Having a base of recurring donors provides the necessary cash flow to accommodate all the variables of planning a tour.

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