Although the failing economy has taken its toll on the luxury travel market, for travel affiliates, this super-niche still represents one of the most lucrative segments in the global travel industry.  Perhaps the best opportunity for travel affiliates wishing to sell to luxury travelers is to ‘link-up’ with Luxury Link, one of the world’s leading luxury vacation and resort websites.

Luxury Link boasts that they offer unparalleled access to more than 1,000 upscale travel suppliers, including hotels, resorts and villas, cruise lines, and specialty tours spread across some 60 countries around the world.  Their market reach is impressive: the Company claims a membership base comprised of more than 500,000 affluent travel buyers (the average member’s annual income exceeds $175,000), while their strategic partnerships with Conde Nast Traveler and The Robb Report provide access to an additional 2.5 million online travel consumers.

By deftly executing a rather simple business model – online auctions – Luxury Link provides a dynamic marketplace where these unique upscale vacation packages are made available at a significant discount to the carriage trade (or those travelers who aspire to join this lofty group) by striking deals with leading luxury properties and travel service providers from around the world.

Once on Luxury Link’s website, travel consumers can find, assess and bid on luxury travel package deals based on five themes or categories:

–          Destinations: This category is segmented by geographic regions (e.g., packages offered in the Caribbean and Bermuda) or by continent (e.g., Europe)

–          Interests: Travelers can search and purchase travel products based on type of activity or interest, such as Active/Adventure, City, Beaches, Food &Wine, Golf, Honeymoon, or Spas to name a few

–          Property Types: Travel choices in this category include Hotels, All-Inclusives, Cruises, Villas, Estates & Castles, Cruises

–          Auctions: This category lies at the ‘heart’ of Luxury Link’s business model; by clicking here, travelers can quickly jump into the various auction offerings by type of auction (e.g., New Auctions, Closing Soon, ‘Mystery Auction’ and ‘Under $1,500′) as well as review the winning bids for auctions held within the last 7 days

–          Buy Now: for those who are very familiar with the site, or just want the quick ‘skinny’ on deals, clicking this category gets you to those deals that fall under the ‘Best Selling’ and ‘Under $1,500 ‘ sub-categories, among others

The upscale inventory available on the Luxury Link site is constantly changing, and members can book any of the travel packages or products in any of four ways:

1. Single Auctions, which follow the “winner takes all” auction principle, applies to auctions where just one package is offered for sale; bidding remains open until the auction officially closes and members are free to submit unlimited bids throughout the auction process.

2. Dutch Auctions feature multiple packages for sale, with the total number of packages noted up front, and at the end of the auction, all “winners” pay the same price as the lowest (not highest) winning bid.

3. Best Shot Auctions give each bidder one chance at winning multiple packages, and all winners pay the same price as the lowest winning bid.

It should be noted that Luxury Link typically starts the auction bidding process for its travel packages at up to 65% off retail prices.  Also, all auctions sales are final (not refundable), and the actual travel dates are booked after the auction is closed and the transaction has been completed.

4. Fixed-Price Offers offer members the opportunity to forgo the auction process and buy a luxury travel packages at a set (discounted) price. Fixed Price Offers also differs from auctions in that it provides the consumer greater flexibility and less risk, as the packages are billed after the travel dates are validated, and payments are usually refundable contingent on property approval.

While Luxury Link’s auction process results in some serious savings (not to mention some serious fun to boot) for the ‘winning’ traveler, travel affiliates can also ‘win big’ from Luxury Link’s travel affiliate program.  The pay-out to travel affiliates can be quite rewarding: the average package value is about $1,500, on which the travel affiliate can earn a commission that ranges between 4% – 6%. Leisure Link offers a 60 day cookie policy.  Current EPC rates are running at $43.33 for 3 months and $19.22 for 7 days.  To learn more about Luxury Link’s travel affiliate program, visit Commission Junction or FlexOffers, their preferred affiliate networks.

Unlike past economic recessions, where the luxury market seemed pretty impervious to the economic turbulence, our current global malaise has hit the luxury market rather hard.   To wit, according to a recent report by consultants Bain & Co, sales of luxury goods in general are expected to drop 10% this year, will not recover fully to 2007 levels until 2012, and that “…austerity and understatement remain the ‘must-have’ items of the rich and fabulous” in today’s downsized world.

Although the gloomy outlook posed by Bain & Co. is certainly bad news for deluxe travel suppliers, TravelDividends suggests that the deep discounts these suppliers are offering represent a great opportunity for niche retailers like Luxury Link – as well as some travel affiliates.   Our belief is that those travel companies that helped embattled luxury travel suppliers sell their distressed merchandise during rough times won’t be forgotten when the economy finally rebounds.  That’s one way long-lasting partnerships sometimes develop – and flourish.

Do you agree?  What has been your experience with the luxury travel market, and what prospects do you see for its near-term future?  When do you think the economy will ‘turn the corner’, and what tactics and strategies are you employing to weather the storm?

TravelDividends appreciates hearing from our readers, so drop us an email and let us know your thoughts.  Many Thanks…