Major operators are seeking to crank up their deals with affiliates after identifying them as key, inexpensive areas of online distribution.
Cosmos, Thomas Cook and MyTravel are all seeking to widen their partnerships, which have little commitment and virtually no financial risk to the operator.
With affiliate schemes, commission is paid only on sales – not on click throughs – with rates typically around 4%, far lower than those paid to high-street agents.
Affiliate schemes work by online companies providing third-party sites with promotional material and links to their websites. Affiliates determine how strongly they promote the company, which is dependent on conversion rates.
MyTravel director of digital marketing Russell Gould, who has struck a deal with AffiliateFuture, an umbrella organisation with hundreds of affiliate members, described them as a “virtual sales force” which delivers important incremental sales. “It’s low risk, and the conversion of lookers to bookers is high,” he said. “It offers a quick, manageable way to engender multiple partnerships.”
Gould added it would look to extend its partnerships. “We want to work with affiliates who market to our type of customer,” he said. “We support them as we would a network of independent travel agents. It is a virtual sales force.”
Thomas Cook online partnerships manager Daniel Barrasso said around 20% of its online sales are through affiliates.
“It’s an important distribution channel and is growing all the time,” he told Travolution.
But Gould warned there was some risk involved as affiliates are experts in search marketing.
“We ban affiliates from using our brand as they are good at search marketing. If they get in there before you, it can knock you off the listings,” he said.