In a recent report it was revealed that just a third of UK business owners understand affiliate marketing. More specifically they failed to accurately describe what it was with the majority of respondents confessing that they need to spend more time learning about it.

So what of the travel sector? How does this industry stack up? In some ways I think we are a little further ahead, in other ways I think we are worryingly behind other industries. In the main however, the fundamental issue remains the same. If we look at the hotel business for example, running an affiliate campaign all depends on the online marketing department’s relevance to the hotel chain’s overall objectives. 

For big hotel chain businesses in the UK we find that affiliate marketing or OPM (online performance marketing) is becoming very much a part of the marketing strategy. This is good news  but with smaller businesses, where online sales are still not considered a legitimate channel, OPM hardly registers.

These are the businesses we, as an industry need to focus our efforts on educating.

Travel Advertiser Focus

It was only last year when networks and top publishers started to focus on travel advertisers. We have seen sales increase dramatically and profits soar as a result. It has not taken long to get to this stage and the big brands are beginning to see a real return from affiliate marketing.

In order get the travel industry as a whole to fully understand performance marketing – not just the big brands – education is the key. It has been well documented that brands are enjoying handsome returns from OPM but the lack of education in the industry is still a major problem.

Although the situation is improving among mainstream marketers, there is still a concern that affiliate networks involve a very complex process with a difficult structure. It’s this notion that makes the uninitiated unwilling to spend more or, in some cases, anything on this form of customer acquisition.

Performance Simplicity

Affiliate marketing is not complicated. In many ways it’s extremely simple, but the lack of understanding is preventing investment from those who make the decisions and have to justify how their budgets are spent.

So, why not start at grass roots level. There are many seminars, conferences and expositions focused on travel and ecommerce and, in the main, they are attended by online or ecommerce managers. There is a growth in dedicated affiliate events, so let’s see more travel shows including affiliate marketing or performance marketing speaking sessions on the agenda. Let’s educate the decision makers and help them learn about the opportunities performance marketing can bring to their business. In turn they can speak to their budget holders about OPM with a degree of understanding which will help them make informed decisions about this discipline.

After all, education is key to the development and growth of any industry and the travel industry is no exception.