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May 3, 2021

Don't Call it a Comeback: What Travel Brands Must Do Now to Win 2021 with Affiliate Marketing

Craig McGlynn
Travel Industry Affiliate Marketing

In March 2020, when most of the world went on lockdown and stay-at-home mandates became the norm, many industries were dealt a devastating economic blow. But the travel industry came to a near standstill. Airlines were largely grounded, hotels couldn’t give rooms away, and future bookings for anything travel-related dried up overnight–and it’s been a long year since then. According to the U.S. Travel Association, travel spending was down 42% in 2020, which translates to a staggering $500 billion loss. 

It’s no wonder that some travel brands have significantly scaled back their affiliate programs over the past 12 months. But now, with the world beginning to reopen, people are ready to get back to normal life and go, well, pretty much anywhere. And travel brands who want to capitalize on the impending post-COVID vacation surge need to dust off their affiliate marketing strategy and focus on six key areas now. 

#1: Communication

Odds are if you are a travel supplier or travel website, your affiliates haven't heard much from you, because let's be honest, you probably haven't had a lot to tell them, right? Now is a perfect time to rebuild those relationships, and a strong communication strategy is a great place to start. Re-engage them with proactive content that highlights the ways the travel industry is gaining strength and the protocols that have been put in place to keep travelers safe. And to really get their attention, roadmap a strategy with placements and deals to stimulate conversions. At the very least, let them know you are still in business and want to continue to work together.

#2: Data 

Take advantage of this downtime to get familiar with your program data. Affiliate offers valuable insight into the customer journey and the types of travelers the channel brings you. Get to know not only the conversion data but also the real people behind the data. For instance, determine if the customers are frequent travelers. Compare their spending, length of stay, and other factors to other acquisition channels. Evaluate the customer’s Lifetime Value (LTV) and take note of which incentives worked best to get bookings. 

#3: Targeting

Regardless of your customer demographics and location, the affiliate channel has an answer for targeting those groups. For example, many key publishers in performance marketing have gotten significantly smarter with targeting by geo and buyer demographics. Loyalty and deal and coupon, along with publishers that collect site visitor demographics, can specifically target the exact customers you want, right where they live. 

#4: Discounts and Promotions

We all know what a good deal does. It creates purchase intent, and if you’re lucky, it does so immediately. Want to take the guesswork out of your potential customers' decision to travel? Give them an offer they can't resist. And while you’re at it, incentivize your affiliates with an equally irresistible commission. 

#5: Content

Prime the market with aspirational content that will get people excited about traveling again. Lets face it, everyone who has been stuck at home for the last year has one thing in common: the dream of getting out and about again. Create some FOMO, get them wishing they were somewhere else, and then hit them with that too-good-to-be-true deal we mentioned earlier!

#6: Pre-Bookings

With live events returning and family-focused holidays on the horizon, the travel figures will undoubtedly be up significantly, but that doesn’t mean customers won’t hesitate to book. Encourage site visitors to pre-book a vacation by offering them some travel insurance or a guarantee that if the world turns upside down again, they will be able to cancel their trip without too many headaches or too much expense.

There is no doubt that travel is returning, and similar to the “revenge buying” phenomenon we say in post-Covid retail, you can count on the surge to be sudden and plentiful. That means now is the time to try out some new tactics. Our next blog in this travel series will provide more tips for the hotel, airline, cruise, and rental car industries. Stay tuned!