This week’s musings, reflections and observations about travel affiliate marketing…

1. I think travel affiliate marketers should be paying close attention to the projections for the upcoming holiday season emanating from the Fareologists at Bing Travel.

According to the data and follow-on analysis from the industry’s leading ‘intelligent travel search and decision engine’, the cumulative effects of recession-driven bargain basement pricing in the hotel and airline industries coupled with the deep capacity cuts at all the airlines have resulted in most flights now flying with almost-full load factors.

However, there are signs that the economy is turning around; if in fact, the national economy rebounds, based on Bing Travel’s predictive air and hotel demand and price model, the effects of such a rebound may well increase consumer demand for travel.  Moreover, that increase in demand would, in-turn, start to edge air and hotel prices upwards as we approach this year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas travel period.

In its press release announcing the latest statistics, analysis and projections from the Bing Airline Price Predictor and The Bing Travel Hotel Rate Indicator, Bing Travel notes that for those consumers planning to travel during the 2009 holiday season, locking-in current prices now may be in their best interest.  Case in point…

  • Thanksgiving Travel: Nationally, the average ticket cost for the most popular Thanksgiving itinerary – Wednesday departure, Sunday return – is currently $375, down $122 from last year.Travelers who can stay flexible with their Thanksgiving travel dates may be rewarded with savings; returning on Monday instead of Sunday can yield a savings of $35 per ticket.
  • Christmas Travel: Likewise, the average cost of an airline ticket for the most popular Christmas itinerary (also a Wednesday departure, Sunday return) could cost $353, down $49 from the same period last year.However, unlike the Thanksgiving period, the opportunities for saving a significant amount by shifting travel a day or two are minimal for Christmas, except for traveling on Christmas Day, which saves about $45 per ticket according to Bing Travel’s projections.

The full details behind these and other travel tips and strategies that travel consumers can use to minimize costs and optimize value for the 2009 holiday season can be found in Bing Travel’s Holiday Forecast.

TravelDividends suggests that travel affiliates with air and hotel affiliate programs use Bing Travel’s findings and recommendations to hone their holiday marketing messages in such a way that these changes help convince their customers that, if they haven’t already booked their holiday travel, now is a good time to do so.

2. I think if travel suppliers and travel affiliates are interested in better understanding the psyche of travelers, what makes them tick, how they prioritize their travel needs, or what trade-offs they are willing to make when it comes down to planning their travel arrangements, then customer surveys, focus groups and interviews should be tops on their list of to where to look to ferret out this information.

Even if the customer intelligence available to you is not based on your customers, you can learn a lot by reading, analyzing and culling appropriate information from other reputable travel industry sources.  As you know, we at TravelDividends spend literally dozens of hours every week sifting through dozens of surveys and research reports as part of our effort to keep our readers abreast of the dynamics and trends that are shaping the travel and travel affiliate marketing industries.

During the course of last week’s activities, a recent survey attributed to UK-based Skyscanner referenced in travel and tourism news portal Travel Daily News (TDN) caught our eye.  In particular, it was the headline that grabbed our attention.  It read:  “Vacation more important than education say 66% of Skyscanner users.”

Now admittedly, we originally interpreted the title of the article to mean that folks would rather go on vacations than become educated, so we were greatly relieved once we read the piece that this was not the case.  Instead, what was gleaned from Skyscanner’s latest survey of its users was quite a bit different than what the title suggested:

“Two thirds (66%) of voters said that they would take their children out of school and go on holiday during term time, if it meant getting a cheaper holiday. Only 31% said they wouldn’t. (3% entered alternative answers). The results show the lengths parents are prepared to go to take their family on holiday.”

This just goes to show how critical it is that the message inferred in an article title is aligned with the overall thrust of the article it represents.  To be sure, Travel Daily News does terrific reporting, and based on the almost 10 years I’ve subscribed to this site, I’d ‘guesstimate’ they adhere to the preceding journalistic axiom 99% of the time; everybody slip-up at some point..I guess this is one of those rarities for TDN.

In any event, I enjoy reading Skyscanner surveys, as in my experience they regularly report on the nuanced thinking of their customers (for example, customer insights revealed in past surveys include the fact that ‘moody and stroppy companions’ have been voted the number one reason for spoiling holidays [15%], with ‘rubbish weather’ taking second place with 11% of the vote; and that ?20% of air passengers are willing to fly from an airport that is up to 50 miles from their home, and fly to an airport that is up to 50 miles from their final destination, if it means getting a cheaper flight).

For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with Skyscanner, here’s a thumbnail description of the Company.  Founded in 2001, Skyscanner is a search engine technology company whose ambition is “…to become the number one, online resource for travel information.” Corporate headquarters is in Edinburgh, Scotland, and they have offices in London, Poland, France, and the Netherlands.

Skyscanner also offers a travel affiliate program, through which participating travel affiliates can earn 60% of the click-through revenue Skyscanner generates from their partner airline, travel agent, hotel, car rental, car parking or travel insurance providers.  As is the case with virtually all travel meta search firms, the PPC payout amount is small (in Skyscanner’s case, the average PPC payout is GBP 13 pence, though individual payments can be up to £1.00).

If any of our readers are working (or have worked) with Skyscanner’s travel affiliate program, we’d appreciate from you as to your experiences.

3. I KNEW it was only a matter of time that despite all evidence to the contrary, stories about Michael Jackson faking his own demise and being alive and well would start to circulate on the Internet and mainstream media, though I have to admit that I didn’t expect these ‘sightings’ to have popped-up so soon after his untimely death.

Similar to other popular cultural icons of the past like Elvis, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster (yes, we jest with respect to the latter two), post-mortem sightings of the late ‘King of Pop’ have been reported all over the world.  For example, there’s been a sighting of Jackson hiding behind a scarf at the Hilton Dubai; another of a gloved man hiding under an umbrella in Australia; a white-clad figure surrounded by bodyguards and moving noiselessly in soft white slippers across a gas station forecourt in Spain, as well as the video.

If you (like me), prefer to get some of your news with a bit of fancy and humor, we heartily recommend reading a terrific (and tongue firmly planted in cheek) article – Michael Jackson alive and living in Dubai?–  published in Breaking Travel News about where “The Gloved One” might want to hang-out if he really did fake his death.

However, you’re probably wondering: ‘Great, this is a brilliant journalistic piece of work rivaling that of John Stewart…but, what’s it got to do with travel affiliate marketing or the travel industry, for that matter’?

Well, all joking aside, given considerable and undying interest (not to mention the stream of dollars) that will continue to follow Michael Jackson well-into into the foreseeable future, it seems to us that some enterprising tour operator should put together a ‘Michael Jackson World Tour’, where his devoted fans could retrace their heroes’ ‘moonwalks’, er, I mean footsteps.  Just as importantly, we think that these special interests tours should be sold through travel affiliates.

We think a tour program like this would be a ‘thriller’ for all Jack-O fans…and a big hit for the right tour operator(s), as well as travel affiliates.   What about you, do you agree?   Drop us an email with your thoughts about this – or any other issue or question about the travel affiliate marketing and travel industries.

Thanks for reading today’s post, and until next week’s TITIT column, all the best!