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Adapting to changes in travel affiliate marketing: a panel discussion with Rentalcars, EatWith and OYO

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The travel niche is on its path to recovery, but the world will never be the same. Due to the changing environment and consumer behavior, market players need to adjust their strategies. On September 7, 2021, we hosted a panel discussion called “Adapting to changes in travel affiliate marketing” together with our partners at Rentalcars, EatWith, and OYO.

In this webinar, we discussed the changes in the travel affiliate niche, efficient ways to monetize traffic and different approaches to partnering with brands. You’ll also learn whether the CPA channel is efficient right now and which verticals and brands can bring you and your audience the most profit.

Webinar program

  • The current travel niche landscape: user intent, new norms and trends to keep an eye on
  • Affiliate marketing from the brands’ perspective: insights from EatWith, Rentalcars and OYO
  • Is it still worth it to develop a travel affiliate business in 2021? Tips for a quick start, average receipts and commissions, best practices and brand combinations
  • Q&A

The webinar is moderated by Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil, the faces behind the award-winning travel website ThePlanetD.com. Dave and Deb founded The Planet D after cycling around the continent of Africa in 2008. Since then, they’ve been inspiring adventure in everyone, while showcasing their journeys as an ordinary couple living an extraordinary life. The Planet D is now recognized as one of the top independent travel blogs with Forbes naming Dave and Deb’s website as one of the top 10 travel influencer pages in the world. They have won numerous photography, writing, and video awards, including winning gold twice for the best travel blog at the prestigious Lowell Thomas Awards run by the Society of American Travel Writers. Living by the motto “Adventure is for Everyone”, Dave and Deb share information, inspiration, and tips to help people plan their travels around the world.

Presentation

About our advertisers

Before diving into the travel niche trends, let’s find out more about the advertisers who shared their insights at the webinar.

Rentalcars

Rentalcars is the world’s largest online car rental service. As a brand under Booking.com, Rentalcars offers car rentals in over 60,000 locations across 160 countries and offers access to 1,200 trusted suppliers. The company’s mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world while making travel as frictionless as possible. Here are the advantages of partnering with Rentalcars:

  • Increase your brand loyalty by providing another key component of a traveler’s journey.
  • Earn additional revenue through commissions for car rental bookings.
  • Provide a highly relevant ancillary travel product for your customers.

Rentalcars’ affiliates can earn a 6% commission on completed car rental bookings (once the customer has returned the car to the rental company).

OYO

OYO is a global chain of hotels, homes, and spaces worth $10 billion. The company’s portfolio combines fully operated real estate, comprised of more than 44,000 hotels with over 1.2 million homes in over 800 cities across 80 countries, including the US, Europe, UK, India, Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Japan.

In the US market, OYO is primarily located in the southern states, but is expanding to other areas as well. Major cities where the company is present include: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge, Jackson, Tulsa, and Atlanta. Here are some facts about OYO’s target audience and its booking patterns:

  • There is higher demand from April to October.
  • The average duration of each stay is two nights. 
  • 70% of bookings are made within two days of the check-in date.
  • Most stays are categorized in the affordable/budget hotel category. 
  • The target audience is an equal mix of both genders, largely in the age group of 25-44 years old, and middle income (~$50,000 yearly).

Here are competitive advantages for clients of OYO in the USA:

  • Basic functional amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, spotless linens, clean bathrooms, flat-screen televisions, king-sized beds, and parking spaces available at great prices.
  • Convenient locations.
  • Easy three-tap bookings.
  • Free cancelations.
  • No prepayment or card required for booking.
  • 24/7 customer support.
  • Multichannel booking (app, web, and call center).

OYO offers a diversified commission structure depending on the location where a booking was made:

  • 12% commission for bookings in the United States until November 30 (then 6%)
  • 5.4% commission for bookings in India for new users and 3% for repeat users
  • 6.3% commission for bookings in Indonesia and Malaysia for new users and 4.5% for repeat users
  • 4.5% commission for bookings in Japan 
  • 9% commission for bookings in Brazil

So, how does OYO compare to Airbnb? OYO has many subcategories of accommodation, but offers more spaces on the luxury side, whereas Airbnb offers a plethora of budget segment options. OYO also has its own flagship hotels, where the entire operation is maintained by OYO. In other hotels, the company manages the entire demand for the owner, while the latter provides the check-in experience.

EatWith

EatWith is an online platform offering the world’s largest selection of culinary experiences and connecting travelers with local hosts from over 130 countries. The EatWith team believes that the table is the original social network and bringing people around food will help them make new acquaintances and discover new cultures. Today, the company partners with over 25,000 hosts who organize events at locations, such as their home or an exclusive venue. Notably, 72% of bookings are made on the local and domestic markets. 

EatWith offers different kinds of experiences:

  • Private dining experiences – dinners, birthdays, family events
  • Food tours – local market tours, boutique food walks, culinary sightseeing tours
  • Cooking classes – hands-on culinary workshops, a meal and recipes to take home
  • Online cooking classes – clients can learn to cook local specialties directly from their kitchen with the help of our passionate chefs from around the world 

EatWith offers up to 6% commission on all events. The company experiences are rated 4.9 out of 5 by guests, based on their reviews. EatWith is available in six languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese. Affiliates also get continual support from the dedicated EatWith partnership team.

The current travel niche landscape and trends to keep an eye on

Even though the pandemic sent the travel niche into a decline, it is gradually reviving. Many people are eager to make up for lost vacationing time and are already planning their next trip. However, the rebirth of tourism varies across different segments and, below, you can find recovery trends for car rentals, hotels, and food verticals.

Car rentals 

In the car rental niche, there has been an increase in domestic bookings compared to international ones. For example, in Europe, bookings have been made in mostly Mediterranean destinations, such as Mallorca, Spain, Croatia, Italy, and Cyprus, as well as other locations, such as France and Germany. US travelers are also mostly focused on domestic travel.

Bookings are now made a little further in advance, as customers start to look into the future. They have also become less sensitive to marketing messages, but pay higher attention to booking flexibility. Thus, Rentalcars now offers free cancelation for nearly all bookings, up to 48 hours before pickup, as well as an opportunity to change the booking without paying a fee, but instead only paying the price difference. These measures have been really important to customers and have shown an amazingly higher impact than price messaging.

There has also been an increase in average prices. The demand is now higher than the supply, as the pandemic has made most providers reduce their fleets. However, there has been a slight reduction in prices recently and the market will balance itself out over time. Even though there have been some changes to fleets, Rentalcars still have strict conditions for suppliers to plug in, including age of fleet, average age of cars, reputation, and more.

Hotels

In the hotel niche, there is a higher focus on cleanliness and safety, while pricing had been the driving factor for booking accommodations previously. To promote offers in this category efficiently, it’s crucial to point out that all the necessary sanitation measures have been taken. For instance, OYO provides full information about available hotels, such as whether the staff has been vaccinated, what kind of sanitation measures are taken, and how far in advance the booking was made before check-in. This helps comfort many users during the booking process.

Ensuring safety guidelines increases the operational costs, so the average booking prices have also gone up. However, as most people want to feel safe and enjoy their stay rather than save money, most of the community has not complained about these higher prices. Nonetheless, there are always lucrative discounts running which can make your pocket comfortable.

For safety reasons, people have also started to avoid traveling on holidays and do it on consecutive weekends instead. For example, OYO saw more bookings the next weekend after Memorial day, as many customers decided to wait things out for a week.

Another concern that users have today is booking flexibility, which might remain for the next eight to nine months. For instance, OYO requires no prepayment for booking for about 95% of their hotels.

The booking window has also changed. Initially, 70% of bookings were made within seven days from the check-in date, while the remaining 30% were made within 30 days. Now, people are mostly planning two or three days in advance before traveling. The length of each stay has also increased. While, in the past, people used to book trips for two to three days, they now stay for a week or so.

People mostly travel within their own country, because they are skeptical about international travel due to constantly changing regulations. In situations where they choose to go abroad, they plan the trip at least 15 to 20 days in advance. The top markets are now the USA, the UK, Europe, and Russia, while Southeast Asian markets still have a ways to go in terms of recovery.

Summing up changes in the hotel niche, customers are now more interested in better user experiences at the property with safety concerns being factored into the value of the stay. Now, with vaccinations taking place, more bookings are bound to take place.

Culinary experiences

As for the culinary experiences, there has been a rebound everywhere as soon as restaurants started opening up because people just want to go out after months of being in lockdown. The demand is mostly domestic, especially in the UK. Customers want to stay closer to home, so eating out is also a great way for socialization, as it allows people to travel and make new friends in their own city. There is also a trend of people escaping to the countryside instead of taking big city breaks. Meanwhile, Greece and Italy are the best-selling destinations for international travelers. In general, there are positive signs of recovery, with bookings already being made for next year, especially for international trips.

There is also an increase in all-weekend experiences and plant-based cuisine, as people who are not vegan or vegetarian seek to try something new. What has changed, however, is that people don’t really care how much they’ve spent for a single dinner, they just want to have a unique experience. They also pay a lot of attention to safety. So, for affiliates, it’s a good idea to reassure your audience that all the measures have been taken to keep them safe. For example, one can create relevant content by taking pictures of people wearing masks in your restaurant or chefs preparing food with all appropriate measures in place. This will help users trust your reviews.

How to start making money with affiliate marketing: insights from EatWith, Rentalcars, and OYO

To promote efficiently, it’s important to follow the best niche practices and keep an eye on the trends. Here are some insights from advertisers that will help you create your content.

How to promote hotel stays with OYO

When curating affiliate content for the US, it’s not only about promoting affiliate links, but about personalizing the content. This will drive up the value of the content for the consumers. Make sure to write not only about the accommodations, but also about the ease and flexibility of booking or traveling with OYO. This will work wonders in affiliate performance. As OYO is expanding the channel, this might be a great time for influencers to join the program and get a foothold in the market.

The most efficient affiliate tools for promotion are links and banners. In terms of content, the most efficient options are blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts.

How to promote culinary experiences with EatWith

For efficient promotion, it’s important to know your audience and find your niche. Within the food industry, there are various niches, such as plant-based cuisine, vegan cuisine, etc. EatWith offers various events for different kinds of cuisine as well as various types of events, such as cooking classes, etc. Take advantage of all available events and experiences to find a niche that is really interesting to your audience.

With that said, it is just as important to tell a story. Try to describe the experience in detail so that readers imagine it and feel eager to try for themselves. For example, on the EatWith site, you can read a description of each host, which is a huge part of the whole experience. This is especially true now, as people are deeply interested in getting to know different cultures in their own cities.

The best promotional tools are search widgets, as they give readers an opportunity to discover various experiences. It’s also good to sometimes present top-seller experiences. In terms of content, blog and social media posts perform most efficiently.

How to promote car rentals with Rentalcars

The best way to create content is to tell a good story or share experiences. Car rentals are especially popular close to airports, as many customers rent a car after they land. Thus, content on how to get to the airport at a specific destination works well, so make sure to insert affiliate links there. In addition, articles on top destinations in the Mediterranean, the US, or Canada, where a lot of road trips are happening are also strong options. It’s also efficient to promote various travel services together, such as flights, accommodations, insurance plans, car rentals, etc.

Remember that, with customers’ increased interest in safety, car rentals are more beneficial than public transportation. Travelers feel safer when they can travel with their families in a rented car or on their own. You can point this out in your content to encourage readers to make bookings.

It’s efficient to promote car rentals with links, search boxes, and banners. One of the main channels is email marketing, especially cross-selling and pre-departure emails. For content creators, there are also options like pop-under ads. 

In summary, there are positive signs of recovery across various verticals within the travel niche. So, now might be the best time to get out there and start building those relationships. The best way to achieve success is on the wave up, which is where we are now. Join Travelpayouts and start making money in the travel niche today.