That’s how much people spent on travel purchases online last year.
The travel industry is one of the world’s largest and most enduring industries. Trends might come and go, but people will always need (and want) to travel for work and for pleasure.
Little wonder that across all the sectors, the travel industry contributes over $7 trillion to the global economy.
With so much money being spent, the competition in travel affiliate marketing is tough.
Is it still worth promoting travel affiliate programs? And if it is, how much can you actually make from the best affiliate programs in the industry?
Read on to find out.
Travel Affiliate Programs
- Amazon Associates Affiliate Program
- Expedia Affiliate Program
- Kayak Affiliate Program
- World Nomads Travel Affiliate Program
- Lonely Planet Affiliate Program
- Booking.com Affiliate Program
- TripAdvisor Travel Affiliate Program
- Agoda Travel Affiliate Program
- Skyscanner Travel Affiliate Program
- Airbnb Affiliate Program
- Royal Caribbean Affiliate Program
- Anantara Resorts Affiliate Program
- G Adventures Travel Affiliate Program
Travel Industry Overview
The sheer number of directions you can take a travel site makes the niche particularly intriguing.
There is the potential for enormous general travel sites that discuss how to travel and get cheap flights or there is the potential for a site that focuses on the best places for retirees to visit in Australia, for example.
But there’s just as much potential for travel bloggers in this niche, especially because the products and services they recommend through affiliate links have often been tested in real world situations.
If you look at the mind map above, there are so many products you can promote through different programs and so many ways you can segment the market.
The market can be segmented by:
- Type of tourist attraction (best place to surf, swim with sharks, bungee jump)
- Age group (students, retirees, families with children)
- Interests (golf, art)Budget (cheap, mid range, luxury)
- Events (bachelor/ bachelorette party, location wedding, business conference)
With the combination of travel affiliate programs available to promote and different demographics of people to promote them to in various different locations, there are almost limitless options that you can combine to create a website with manageable competition.
The Travel Industry By Numbers
Travel was one of the first verticals to fully embrace online commerce. The first consumer-focused travel website – Expedia – was launched way back in 1996.
Expedia, of course, is still alive and kicking today. It actually made $5.73 billion last year.
Here’s what the travel industry looks like by the numbers:
- $7.17 trillion: Total size of the travel industry in 2015.
- $533.52 billion: Total money spent on online travel sites in 2015.
- $39.3 billion: Total sales across all of Expedia’s properties in 2013.
- $1.8 billion: Average annual online advertising spend of Priceline (mostly on Google Ads)
- 105 million: Total people engaged in the travel sector (3.6% of all employment)
- 104.6 million: Total rooms booked by Priceline.com in Q1 2015.
Unfortunately, there are no concrete numbers available as to the size of the online travel affiliate marketing industry.
However, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably a substantial portion of the $6.8 billion global affiliate marketing industry.
How Much Can You Make With Travel Affiliate Programs?
In terms of sheer numbers? Hundreds of millions.
Here’s an example.
You might have used Kayak. This meta search engine is essentially a very advanced travel affiliate marketing site. It pools in data from multiple travel sites. When a user selects a flight or hotel, Kayak gets a commission from the booking site.
In 2012, Kayak did $292M in revenue.
Of course, building a site like Kayak would be far beyond the scope of the average affiliate marketer.
Thankfully, even small city/region/country-focused travel blogs can do substantially well with affiliate marketing.
So how much can you make in this affiliate niche?
Anywhere from a few hundred dollars each month to millions.
Your raw marketing savvy and much you can afford to scale the site and its content. and the size of your niche. will likely be the most important contributing factors to your revenues.
What Are People Searching For?
Travel Branded Keywords
The easiest way to make money in affiliate marketing is to recommend products that you know people already want through affiliate links. That is why identifying branded keywords is a great place to start.
We have already mentioned that Expedia is the largest travel company in the world, that’s why it makes sense to find out whether or not they run a travel affiliate program and sign up for it (Hint: they do).
The same goes for all other major brands. Try thinking of something related to travel and playing the brand association game:
- Suitcase = Samsonite
- Hotel = Hilton
- Flight Comparison = Kayak
This will give you a great idea where to start searching for travel affiliate programs. From there, you can analyze the competition to narrow down what angle or categories you want to include in your site.
|last minute flights||37||66,000|
|teach english abroad||50||11,000|
|teaching english abroad||48||8,400|
|best luggage brands||11||6,300|
|how to find cheap flights||76||6,200|
|hotels in albuquerques||6||4,700|
|how to travel the world||35||2,700|
|how to plan a trip||36||1,300|
|romantic things to do in nyc||7||1,200|
|best restaurants in bali||7||150|
|bali wedding venues||1||70|
As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of different ways to approach a travel affiliate website. keyword research is one of the best ways to decide which angle to take with your site.
Product Based Keywords
Keywords such as “best luggage brands” and “best suitcase” have a high search volume combined with a low level of competition.
When you couple these points with the fact that you can monetize these keywords through the Amazon affiliate program, or dedicated luggage affiliate programs, it seems like a perfect candidate to create a post about.
“How To Find Cheap Flights”
General keywords like this have really high competition because they are ideal for monetization.
These will be targeted by the largest blogs as well as by airlines. There is also a high chance that searches like this will be biased towards sites actually selling flight tickets. This makes it almost impossible to rank.
Avoid keywords like this.
Location Dependent Keywords
Keywords such as “best restaurants in bali”, “seminyak villas”, “bali wedding venues” are hyper localized.
As you can see the search volumes are only 150, 150 and 70 respectively for these keywords. Basically, the search volumes are too low for this unless you are ranking first, second or third for lots of similar articles.
Similarly, the traffic is far too low to monetize through something like advertising.
This means that you will need to spend money creating lots of articles to get significant traffic to your blog. So, in order to make profit, you need to be creating the articles around programs that will either convert at an extremely high rate or will convert for an extremely high commission per sale.
However, being an expert on such a localized area – look at The Bali Bible in Bali – is a good strategy to rank and provide properly useful and expert information to your readers.
Who Is Doing Well With Travel Affiliate Programs
Nomadic Matt is a giant amongst travel blogs.
What started out as a humble travel blog has led to the site owner, Matthew Kepnes, becoming a New York Time bestselling author.
The site has almost 7,000 referring domains and gets around 270,000 visitors per month from organic search.
On top of his books, Nomadic Matt monetizes his content through articles with travel affiliate links in them like this one titled “How to buy good travel insurance”.
This is a very simple, text-based article.
There are no images and there is very little formatting. However, this page probably converts quite well because Nomadic Matt has built up so much trust with his audience.
Throughout the post, he tells personal stories of when he has needed insurance when he has been travelling.
Matt monetizes through simple affiliate links that take the user to World Nomads for an insurance quote.
Further down the page, he has also embedded a widget that gives an immediate quote for users.
Y Travel is also a more general travel blog.
What particularly interested me was their post “11 of the best suitcases for easy travel”.
This is a mammoth post about something that would numb the mind of the most avid traveller. Surely, no-one really care enough to read a post about suitcases with a table of contents.
However, Y Travel Blog clearly decided that this was what’s necessary to rank in Google.
And it worked. For this article alone, Y Travel Blog get around 5,000 visitors per month from organic search.
This is around 1/8th of their total traffic from search engines.
However, this is not what really interested me. This article from Y Travel Blog shows that you can focus on products in the travel niche and be successful. Even better, you can monetize through both Amazon and individual travel affiliate programs.
Again and again, we recommend Amazon Associates as probably the easiest way to monetize an authority site through affiliate links. So, the fact that it is possible to generate serious money from products in the travel niche is a big tick in the ‘Plus’ column.
Clicking on the affiliate link here will take the user directly to Amazon, where you can depend on the well-oiled Amazon machine to convert the customer more often than not.
My International Passport
My International Passport is interesting because it shows that travel is a niche that allows people to generate significant traffic in languages other than English.
Javier Eduardo Sanchez initially set the site up as an English language blog before realizing that traffic was easier to come by in his native Spanish.
This allows him to rank for keywords that are extremely difficult to rank for in English, such “What to do in Cancun”.
It just goes to show that there really is almost an infinite number of ways to segment the travel market.
Before jumping in and starting a website in a second language however, it is important to consider how easy it is to monetize.
Do the same travel affiliate programs exist regardless of language?
Can you still monetize through Amazon?
Do the countries you are targeting have sufficient purchasing power?
The moral of the story is: Always look before you jump, especially when publishing content in a foreign language.
13 Best Travel Affiliate Programs Of 2020 And How To Apply
|Advertiser||Travel Category||Affiliate Commissions||Affiliate Networks|
|Amazon||Luggage||7.0% commission, 1-day cookie||Amazon|
|Expedia||Flights, Hotels and Activities||Flight 1% per transaction |
Rental Cars 5.5% per transaction
Hotel 6% per transaction
Packages 3.5% per transaction
Activities 12% per transaction
Ground Transfers 12% per transaction,
|Kayak||Flights, Hotel bookings||White Label Options||Kayak|
|World Nomads||Travel Insurance||10% commission on sales, 60-day cookie||World Nomads|
|Lonely Planet||Books and Guides||15% for print books and ebooks||Lonely Planet|
|Booking.com||Hotel bookings and apartments||4% on all bookings||Commission Junction|
|TripAdvisor||Hotels, flights, restaurants, vacation rentals, and cruises||50% commission||Commission Junction|
|Agoda||Hotels, resorts, hostels, and homes (like Airbnb)||6% per sale||ShareASale|
|Skyscanner||Flights, hotels, car hire||50% on bookings, $1 per app install||Commission Junction|
|Airbnb||Home and apartment rental||Up to $72 per referral||Airbnb|
|Royal Caribean||Cruises||4% per booking||Commission Junction|
|Anantara Resorts||Hotels and resorts||5% per booking ($29 per booking)||ShareASale|
|G Adventures||Adventure travel||5% per sale||Commission Junction|
Travel bloggers can spend a lot of time bouncing from one affiliate network to the next looking for the “perfect” referral program(s) for their site.
But you’re usually better off choosing an affiliate network you know (and possibly love) like Amazon, Commission Junction, etc. There’s nothing wrong with an in-house travel affiliate program- they just tend to leave you with more stuff to manage.
With an established affiliate network you only have to type what you’re looking for in a search box – they’ve already done all the research for you.
Even if you’re not involved in travel blogging, dealing with a recognized travel affiliate program or network is always easier, especially when it comes to your commission rate (i.e. you’ll get paid on time) and the number of affiliate products you can promote.
What Are Some Pros of Travel Affiliate Marketing?
Selling travel affiliate offers isn’t without its positives. Some of the biggest pros to working in this niche are:
- High quality offers: Most well-paying hotel/flight/cruise and travel affiliate programs are from highly respected and well-known brands like Expedia, LonelyPlanet, etc. You’ll never have to worry about sending shady offers to your readers.
- Easy (and fun) content creation: Forget about writing drab how-to’s and guides – content creation for the travel segment is actually fun. Plus, since the best performing travel content is usually visual, you won’t have to do a lot of writing.
- Lots of hidden opportunities: Most of the competition in this sector is centered around English-speaking, US-based audience. If you go outside the US, you’ll find lots of opportunities. If you can write in other languages, you’ll find that some lucrative keywords are virtually free for the taking.
- Growing segment: Millennials might be the most well-traveled generation in history. This generation is also more inclined to explore little known destinations and experiences. This means that there are more opportunities than ever for content creators, travel bloggers, and affiliate marketers. Sure, the competition for “Guide to Orlando, Florida” might be tough, but “Guide to Angkor Wat in Cambodia” isn’t.
- High payouts: The Expedia travel affiliate program pays as much as 10% of the booking amount. That might not sound like a lot, but with most international flights costing over $1,500 and hotels amounting to another $1000 for a week, you’re looking at tens of hundreds of dollars in commissions.
- Lots of travel bloggers: Finding writers and content will never be a challenge. There are tons of bloggers in any niche you can imagine.
- Low competition for local offers & keywords: You might not make it to the top of the SERPs for “new york travel”, but you can definitely win big if you focus on smaller towns where the competition is much lower.
What Are Some Cons Of Travel Affiliate Marketing?
Travel affiliate marketing can be wildly lucrative, but it is also equally challenging.
Here are some of the biggest issues you’ll face as a travel marketer are:
- Need targeted traffic: If you’re running a site about Spain, only someone looking to travel to Spain in the very near future will click on a hotel affiliate offer. This means your traffic needs to be highly targeted if you’re going to get the best conversion rate. There are few “just curious” buyers in this segment.
- Tough competition in the SERPs: The most targeted traffic for travel offers is through organic search. However, the competition for most lucrative keywords is incredibly strong. For instance, if you want to rank for “best hotels in Dallas”, you’ll have to beat the likes of Lonely Planet (DR: X), TripAdvisor (DR: X), Kayak (DR: X) and Expedia – all multibillion dollar companies.
- Low customer lifetime value (LTV): A visitor who lands on your site about Spain will only read your site when he is planning to visit the country (something a tourist won’t do more than once or twice). After he’s booked his tickets and planned an itinerary, you’ll likely lose this visitor forever. Hence, you can’t add people to an email list and keep sending them more and more offers in the long-term.
- Can be Spammy: Perhaps it’s because of the very nature of the segment – travel blogging requires little in experience or expertise – but this field is incredibly spammy. You’ll almost never get a guest post without paying for it (which breaks Google’s ToS and so is not something we recommend). Corollary: this makes link building very hard in the travel market, especially if you want to play nice with Google.
Is It Worth Using Travel Affiliate Programs?
Yes, provided you do three things right:
- Niche and keyword selection: A general-purpose site about “travel tips” or “destination guides” will sink faster than a block of lead. Before you jump into travel marketing, make sure that you select a narrow niche (such as “Ecuador Travel” or “Traveling Guides for Solo Travelers”) as well as keywords with low competition.
- Content creation: The best kind of travel content is usually visual. Such content does very well on social media. If you can create informative, visual content consistently, this segment might be for you.
- Link building: This is a massive challenge in this niche. Most conventional link building methods (such as guest posting and outreach) don’t work. Fortunately, getting social media traffic is easier since everyone likes to read about exotic places :)
Travel is a nearly inexhaustible niche. Sure, the competition is immense, but so are the opportunities.
If you can ace content creation and figure out a scalable link building strategy, you’ll be golden.
Plus, with the variety of products you can sell – from tickets to travel insurance – you’ll never be short of offers.