What might make the ‘perfect’ adventure travel affiliate partner site?  Thousands of pre-packaged adventure and experiential tours to choose from?  Exclusive content that can be customized into privately-guided tours?  A personalization engine?  Telephone access to real, live expert and non-biased adventure consultants and seasoned world travelers for advice?  Low price guarantee?  A travel affiliate program that rewards affiliates for sending visitors that register and purchase tours on the website?   If these are the components you think make for the perfect online adventure travel affiliate partner site, then you may want to check-out iExplore.

Adventure and experiential travel is one of the larger niches in the global travel industry, one that increasingly plays very strongly in the online travel space (see our June 23rd 2009 article for more on this subject).  If you are a travel affiliate interested in adventure travel, one of the largest players in this super niche that you might to investigate for partnership opportunities is Chicago, IL based iExplore.

Founded in 1999, the company today stakes out a lot of territory in its segment. For example, it claims to be the ‘Intel Inside’ with respect to much of the adventure tour product sold by such brands as Expedia, Travelocity and Travel Channel.  By virtue of generating over 1 million unique monthly visitors, it purports to be the preeminent player in its niche.  As a subsidiary of German travel and leisure behemoth TUI, it can tap into the vast and unparallel resources of its parent, including leveraging the scope and scale of an international travel network that surpasses not just any other tour operator in the world, but many airlines and hotel companies as well.

And, because today iExplore offers tour product to more than 100 countries around the world, including a range of “made-to-order trips” focused on activities like hiking, biking, diving, cultural, expedition, wildlife safari and culinary tours (among others) that travelers can craft from its own designer package tour line, iExplore Exclusives, the Company can boast that there isn’t a nook or cranny in the adventure / experiential travel segment that it doesn’t cover.  Indeed, by its own admission, about 30% of its million monthly uniques visit iExplore just to mine insights and recommendations – or share information – about the more exotic travel destinations around the world.

TravelDividends likes the organization and layout of the iExplore site, and in particular, its Activity Guides section (categorized alphabetically, by activity) and its ‘trip rating system’ (calibrated by degree of Difficulty / Physical Activity/Comfort/ Exclusive vs. Non-exclusive).  We’re not alone in our assessment, as the Company has won numerous awards for “Best Adventure Travel Website” by well respected publications like Forbes Magazine, Travel & Leisure Magazine, and Time Magazine, to name a few.

Their travel affiliate program is pretty nifty as well, though not overly generous by most tour operator standards.  There are two revenue generating components to iExplore’s travel affiliate program: compensation for customers that the travel affiliates sends to the site, and commissions earned on tour packages any of these customers subsequently purchase.

Here are the specifics for revenue levels a travel affiliate can earn through the customer registration element of the iExplore program.

Registered visitors sent from affiliate sites
From To Fee/Registered Visitor
1 499 $0.50
500 4,999 $0.65
5,000 9,999 $0.75
10,000 24,999 $1.00
25,000 49,999 $1.25
50,000 99,999 $1.50
100,000 and UP $2.00
According to iExplore, providing that the affiliate generates at least 5 registrations per month, the number of registrations continues to accrue over the full duration of the period that the affiliate is active in its program.  When a new payment level is reached, that compensation level applies only to those registrations above the number required to reach the new payment level (in other words, the higher commission level is not retroactive to booking number one).

Travel affiliates can also earn a commission whenever a customer that they have sent to iExplore purchases a trip, providing that “…the visitor must follow the electronic link from Affiliate’s web site to iExplore, Inc. and purchase a trip within three months of (a) the date of registration either on-line or off-line or (b) the last time that the third party visited and linked through to iExplore, Inc. from Affiliate’s web site.”  iExplore pays the travel affiliate a commission of 1% of the gross revenues generated for a trip.  Payments are made on a monthly cycle; iExplore manages its travel affiliate program in house.

While it’s free to join iExplore’s travel affiliate program, iExplore appears to be a bit selective as to who they’ll partner with.  Towards that end, the Company reserves the right to select its affiliates based on “…its own selection criteria.”  To learn if you qualify as an iExplore affiliate, send an e-mail to the Company (affiliates@iexplore.com), noting a link to your site, a brief summary of your site and/or company, and why it would be a good fit with iExplore, its traffic in terms of unique visitors per month (or visitor sessions/month), and any additional statistics that you think would “…help [us] evaluate your company and/or site, and your personal contact information.”

TravelDividends believes that travel affiliates can exploit many revenue generating opportunities in virtually all elements of the travel industry value chain, but we are most high on opportunities that travel niches provide.  Adventure travel is one of the most fertile niches, and together with travel affiliate friendly tour operators like iExplore, they represent a natural fit with the business profile of many super affiliates (as well as those who aspire to be!).

If you are a travel affiliate or tour operator with working knowledge of the adventure and experiential travel affiliate space, we’d like to hear from you.  Do you agree with our enthusiasm for adventure / experiential travel?  We welcome your comments and suggestions, as do our readers.  Drop us line…Thanks.