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How affiliate marketing can help to relaunch your travel brand

Could affiliate marketing be the secret to getting your travel business back on track? Virginia Rizzi is Head of Affiliate at Glass Digital, where she oversees affiliate marketing campaigns for clients such as Broadway Travel and Inspired Luxury Escapes. In the past, she’s also worked with Hotels.com, Virgin Holidays, KLM, Emirates, BA and Intrepid Travel. In this post, she explains why affiliates can be so effective and shares her top tips for kickstarting your campaign.

The travel industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — perhaps more so than any other sector. During what was supposed to the busiest season of the year, many accommodation providers, tour operators, and airlines have seen their revenue fall away to almost nothing. To say it’s been a tough trading period would be an understatement, but the good news is that restrictions have started to ease across Europe, and customers are (tentatively) starting to book trips and start travelling again.

That means it’s time to start funnelling some resources into your marketing, so you can make sure your business is at the top of the pile when customers decide to take their first post-lockdown holiday.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective, low-risk way to increase bookings, then affiliate marketing could be the way forward. Here, I’ll explain why this type of marketing can be especially effective for the travel sector, along with some tips for creating a successful campaign.

Why is affiliate marketing such a good choice for travel brands?

Affiliate marketing is form of digital marketing where influencers or publishers drive customers to your products or services through affiliated links in their own content. They then earn a commission for every customer that converts. It’s effective for travel companies for a number of reasons:

  1. You only pay for conversions: You’ll only pay commission when you actually make a conversion, meaning you can protect profit margins and ensure return on investment. Given the tough financial circumstances you may be facing at the moment, this is a good way to make sure you’re not overstretching your budget.
  2. You can pay out after the trip has taken place: Depending on the type of products you offer,you can setup your affiliates so you only pay out commission after the trip has actually gone ahead.This makes it much easier to forecast budgets, and you won’t need to pay commission if the trip is cancelled or amended — a factor that’s especially valuable during an uncertain time like this.
  3. It allows you to reach a wide variety of potential customers: There’s a diverse range of influencers and publishers you can work with on an affiliate basis. This allows you to tap into new markets and ensure your services are promoted at different points in the buying journey, from awareness to action.
  4. It’s very flexible: You’ll have plenty of control of how and when your commission is awarded. For example, you could incentivise publishers by offering higher rates on destinations you’re struggling to sell. This gives you incredible flexibility and allows you to protect your profit margins by ensuring you only pay out when you secure a high-value conversion.

Top tips to kickstart your affiliate campaign

Affiliate marketing can be a lucrative and cost-effective way to get the word out and increase bookings. So, it’s certainly something that can help your travel business bounce back after COVID-19. Whether this the first time you’ve used affiliates or you want to pick up a campaign that you paused during the pandemic, there are a few things you should bear in mind to increase your chances of success.

Keep up to date with the latest regulations
You’ll want to follow the news and latest government advice closely, so you can ensure that you’re promoting the right messaging across your affiliate channel. This will ensure you’re not wasting resources targeting the wrong groups or areas, and it will help your brand to look more trustworthy and informed, too.

Go local (if you can)

It’s expected there will be a boom in domestic tourism over the coming months as people look to enjoy their newfound freedom, so you should consider making UK bookings the focus of your campaign. You can do this by working with local and national affiliates to make sure that your brand is promoted across UK travel blogs and sites.

Boost your reviews

If you feature customer reviews of your holiday packages or accommodation on your site, you should look to increase the number of responses as much as possible. Customers are more likely to book if they can see that you’re offering a great product, so this can really help to drive conversions. Of course, these should always be genuine, but you can encourage people to leave a review by following up with customers and offering discounts for leaving feedback.

Be sure to retarget

Retargeting allows you to remind your potential customers about your products or services if they didn’t convert on the first click. In travel especially, people can take their time to make a decision, so be sure to take advantage of this when you can, and remember to update your campaign to target any trending topics or changes in the wider industry or news.

When done right, affiliate marketing can be an effective way to secure new sales. Remember, if you’re not feeling confident about handling your affiliates yourself, you can hire a professional to manage your campaign for you.