This is the second of three articles we’re featuring in this week’s blog that focus on Escorted Tour Operators that also offer Travel Affiliate Programs.

One of the reasons why the tour operator travel industry segment represents a great opportunity for travel affiliate marketers is the breadth and depth of the products available across the category’s many niches. Within the escorted tour sub-category, one can find numerous companies that specialize in offering travel experiences focused on even smaller ‘micro-niches’.  A great example of an escorted tour operator that has  successfully carved out a micro-niche and offers a travel affiliate program is Tours Gone Wild.

As you might infer by its name, Tours Gone Wild is a specialty tour operator that caters to young adults seeking to experience “…the world’s best nightlife like a local.”  Based in Miami, Tours Gone Wild’s customer value proposition might seem a bit ‘risqué’ at first view blush, but by taking a closer look, it’s really quite clever: by choosing the best party destinations around the world and securing special services “…with the hottest clubs and promoters” at these destinations, Tours Gone Wild promises to “…show every one of our clients a Vacation of a Lifetime.”

To achieve its lofty pledge, this specialty tour operator provides specially-designed escorted tours to some of the world’s top ‘party’ destinations, like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Cartagena, Ibiza, Miami and Athens and the Greek Islands.  Typical packages, which can be further customized, include round trip airfare, hotel accommodations, Nightlife Services (which includes: ‘Front of the Line’ club admission, covers into clubs, bottle service and transportation to/from clubs), city guide, city tour, most meals, 24 hour on-site staff and taxes and fees.

The tour cost varies based on destination, length of stay and seasonality.  For example, their 5-night ‘Carnival in Brazil’ package for February 2010 starts at $1,899 per person; a 10-night summer 2009 Greece Travel Packages (featuring Athens, Mykonos, & Santorini) is offered at $2,599 on-up; and their popular, year-round Miami Beach Travel Package, featuring VIP Access into Miami’s hottest nightspots, starts at a modest $699.

Founded in 2003 by two MBA graduates of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arturo Perchemlian and Santiago Mejia, Tours Gone Wild has taken the traditional college spring break concept and turned it into a year-round business.  We like the Tours Gone Wild concept; to us it’s representative of the innovative and fresh approaches many travel start-ups have taken to carve-out or create new travel niches based on satisfying unmet consumer demand.

Similar to its market approach, Tours Gone Wild’s travel affiliate program is also a bit unorthodox.  Unlike most other tour operators, Tours Gone Wild does not pay travel affiliates a commission on sold packages; instead, they offer $0.50 for each qualified lead brought by travel affiliates to their site. Tours Gone Wild defines ‘quality lead’ as consisting of someone filling out one of the tour operator’s many contact request forms, which includes the person providing his/her name, telephone number, and email address. Full information about Tours Gone Wild’s travel affiliate program can be found at ShareASale, their preferred affiliate network.

TravelDividends believes pay-per-lead programs have their place in the travel and travel affiliate industries, but we think that the tour operator category is not one of them.  Indeed, for high-value travel products like escorted tours, in our opinion, incenting travel affiliates through a commission scheme is far more likely to produce significantly better traffic and conversions.   Do you agree with our views, or does your experience suggest the lead model is better?  We’d appreciate learning your thoughts; drop us an email and let us know.  Thanks.