The Caribbean is heating-up again for travel affiliates as unprecedented numbers of hotels and resorts, together with their partner airlines and tour operators, are luring value-driven travelers back with a bevy of discounts, promotions and deals.  The critical question travel affiliates should be asking is: Given this flurry of supplier activity and pricing largesse, am I maximizing my potential earnings?

With an aim to shedding some light on that question, TravelDividends reviewed several of the more spectacular Caribbean promotions that have been swirling around the travel affiliate world the last week or so, and vetted them against several business axioms we’ve found useful when assessing the attractiveness of business opportunities.  Hopefully you’ll find our approach useful and wish to incorporate these as your consider which travel suppliers and travel affiliate programs should be part of  your travel product portfolio.

Axiom Number 1: Mind the Man Behind the Curtain

It seems like everybody and their mother is discounting Caribbean travel these days; chain hotels and resorts, independent properties, airlines, tour operators, local activity providers, cruise lines, you name it, everybody is in the act.  While on the surface, this phenomenon appears to be great news for travel affiliates, there is good reason for travel affiliates to be prudent and cautious as they wade through these offers.

To begin with, as we all know, not all travel suppliers sell through the travel affiliate channel, so the mere fact that significant discounts are being bandied about to incent travelers does not obviate the need for travel affiliates to separate-out those travel suppliers who are ‘affiliate friendly’ from those that are not.   However, ‘separating out’ does not necessarily mean throwing-out, as some of the non-affiliate channel players can still be a very productive travel supplier if you can effectively sell their product through a secondary relationship.

For example, SuperClubs, one of the premier all-inclusive resort chains with a range of resorts that spans virtually all travel budgets, lifestyles and interests has great product, but unfortunately, doesn’t offer travel affiliate program for any of its products.  Contrast that with Sandals / Beaches, another great all-inclusive brand which also happens to be a big supporter of the travel affiliate channel.

Both offer superior products, and in some cases compete head-to-head for the same customer (e.g., Beaches or SuperClubs’ Starfish Trelawny Resort & Spa family-focused vacations), while in other situations, their product is relatively unique, and has a niche almost all to itself (think SuperClubs’Hedonism Resorts ).

These players, along with other top tier resort operators like Couples, mega-hotel chain Marriott Hotels and Resorts, or super-niche resorts like clothing-optional Hidden Beach Resort Au Naturel Club, are all offering dazzling consumer deals ranging from 40% – 60% off normal published rates for bookings made during a specified summer timeframe.

The booking channel choices are many, but as a travel affiliate, whom should you steer your customers to?  It would seem obvious that for those resorts that do work with travel affiliates, like Sandals / Beaches, that your bookings go directly to these suppliers, while traffic for non-affiliate channel sanctioned resorts go through affiliate-friendly third-party travel intermediaries like tour operators (e.g., Funjet Tours), online travel agencies (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz), or travel package aggregators (e.g., CheapCaribbean) and deals publishers (e.g., TravelZoo).  Each of these intermediaries – and others like them – pays travel affiliates a commission on bookings that the travel supplier ultimately delivering the service denies travel affiliate marketers.  Taking some literary license, for the sake of this discussion, we refer to all of these intermediary players as ‘the men behind the curtain’.

But a blind-faith adherence to driving your clients to the ‘Man Behind The Curtain’ might lead to a travel affiliate sub-optimizing their sales and revenue potential.  Instead, we suggest travel affiliates do a little due diligence before jumping in feet-first into any business relationship.

To that point, we ascribe to the old carpenter’s saw of “measure twice, cut once’, which in the parlance of affiliate marketing translates to ‘to assure you’ll be getting the best deal, check to see which supplier is paying the highest commission for the same product’.

This axiom begets the next, which is…

To be continued; Part 2 will be posted in tomorrow’s blog.