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Ways to Improve ROAS with Travel Partnerships

Jun 13, 2024

Senior Director, Customer Solutions (EMEA)

Travel brands face unique challenges when it comes to maximizing their return on ad spend (ROAS) within partnership and affiliate programs. With myriad platforms and influencers vying for consumer attention, it’s crucial for travel brands to employ strategic tactics that not only drive bookings but also ensure optimal conversion rates and margins on partner contributions. 


Fortunately, emerging tech capabilities are giving travel brands greater transparency and control when it comes to understanding which types of partnerships and campaigns are making the greatest contributions to their short- and long-term goals. Let’s look at some actionable concepts that travel marketers can use to enhance ROAS within partnership and affiliate programs. 


Start with Insights

ROAS represents one of the most—if not the most—important KPIs for travel brands and agencies. However, marketers can’t optimize toward this important goal without first gaining a strong understanding of attribution within their programs. This is especially the case within partner and affiliate marketing, where so many moving pieces across various types of partners are often in play. 

Data and analytics play a pivotal role in guiding the optimization of partner and affiliate programs. Leveraging robust data insights—ideally in the form of an easy-to-understand dashboard—enables travel brands to make informed decisions, identify lucrative opportunities, and refine their strategies to maximize ROAS. By analyzing key metrics across partners and partner types, brands can gain a comprehensive understanding of their audience’s preferences, behaviors, and booking patterns. This granular level of insight empowers travel brands to tailor their partnerships and affiliate initiatives, ensuring alignment with their program goals. 

Moreover, data-driven optimization enables travel brands to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their partner and affiliate programs. By tracking performance metrics—ideally in real-time—brands can swiftly identify underperforming partnerships or channels and allocate resources accordingly. Whether it’s reallocating ad spend, adjusting commission structures, or refining messaging and creative assets, data-driven optimization allows brands to iterate and fine-tune their strategies on the fly. 


Get a Handle on Attribution

Step one is gaining visibility into what’s happening with your partners and affiliates. This means using platform insights to understand which partners are initiating, influencing or converting your sales. This is a key component towards fairly rewarding those who are driving value within the booking journey. The next step is making decisions based on what you learn, particularly as it relates to how you attribute and reward your partners. 

There are a number of ways that travel brands can choose to pay out commissions on the sales driven by partners. First-click commissioning, for example, would give full credit for a sale to the first affiliate partner that a customer visited—say, a content partner like Travel + Leisure, which might offer a would-be traveler their first glimpse at the exotic destination they ultimately book. Last-click commissioning would, in contrast, reward the booking site where that traveler ultimately made their arrangements. 

That said, by working with partners that support a wide array of commissioning options, travel brands can get even more nuanced in their approach. The method they choose should be done with an eye toward optimizing overall ROAS. For example, travel brands might want to consider implementing suppressed codes within their attribution and commissioning. This enables brands to ensure codes given to certain partners—say, a discount airline ticket offer meant to be exclusive to Bank of America business customers—don’t leak out into the broader affiliate ecosystem. In doing so, travel brands can ensure their discounts are restricted and applicable to specific strategic and direct partnerships rather than for the wider public domain. 


Optimize Margin Through Dynamic Commissioning

Another way to improve ROAS with travel partner and affiliate programs is to implement dynamic commissioning based on the time and anticipated popularity of a booking. For example, a resort might implement a higher commission rate for partners who secure February bookings (i.e., a historically low-volume time of year for the resort) vs. August bookings (i.e., a time of year when the resort tends to operate at full capacity). As another example, airlines might choose to pay partners more when they book customers into harder-to-sell destinations, seat classes, or flight times. 

Ultimately, one of the most important factors to improving ROAS in travel partner and affiliate programs is control; travel brands and agencies should seek partners and platforms that not only provide visibility into how their programs are operating, but also give them granular control over how sales are attributed, commissioned, and optimized. 

Navigating the complexities of partnership and affiliate programs in the travel sector requires a strong understanding of consumer behavior, market trends, and brand goals. By adopting a multifaceted strategy that acknowledges the nuanced customer journey of travelers, and combining that with the latest in partner program management capabilities, travel brands can not only improve their ROAS but also cultivate long-term loyalty among their audience.


**This article originally appeared in Hospitality Technology on 6/6/2024 

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