I have spent the better part of the last two months thinking about, talking to and listening to the travel industry. During that time I have learned a lot about something I love to do (travel) but never really had direct experience with (selling travel). Talking to travel industry professionals is one of the best parts of my day because I envy them so much. You are not so much selling a trip as you are selling memories. A vacations ends but the memories go on forever. I love sharing the memories of my trips and I would love to be able to help people by doing the same myself.
That said, I think that professionals in the travel industry often think of their roles very narrowly in that they think they only sell airfare, hotels and other items directly related to a trip. They often forget about anything other than insurance and I think they are missing out because there are huge opportunities for them in the field of affiliate marketing.
Based on my recent experience with travel and my previous experience in emarketing, I can confidently say that affiliate marketing is another area (along with niche marketing) that gets almost no love from marketers. Every single day, people are making huge sums on affiliate marketing. Marketing Sherpa estimated that in 2006, affiliates earned a total of US$6.5 billion in commissions from affiliate marketing. Yes, I said billion....
Affiliate marketing can be fairly simply, thanks in large part to the advent of affiliate marketing platformss like Commission Junction. These platforms provide an easy way for affiliates (or publishers as they are called because they have the audience) to meet with advertisers (who are the ones with the goods for sale), share content and most importantly, get paid.
If you have a popular site, all that you need to do is sign up, get the ads and includes the appropriate links behind him. Cookies are set on clicks that identify you to advertisers store and purchase details are sent back to the platform. You are paid out each month and life goes on.
One of the most prolific affiliate marketers and somebody I was at one time shocked to meet lived in the same city as I did was John Chow. He became famous as the guy making over 30k a month through affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to additional revenue from an audience you already have. Risk is reduced because you only make commission on what is sold. For publishers and advertisers, the up-front investment is rather low.
If you are a travel professional and would like to know more about affiliate marketing, you can contact me.
Alternatively, I can also point you to somebody well versed in these matters. Andy Hayes at Travel Online Partners. (site seems down now though).