Here’s a question that I see in my inbox about once a week, in one form or another:
I am in the process of building a travel website and I need to connect with a hotel booking affiliate partner. I have gone through your affiliate program page, but I am confused if I should partner with a merchant who pays for every successful booking or with a merchant who pays for every lead? Can you please help me with that?
This was sent from one of our flight affiliate partners. Instead of just answering directly as I usually do, I thought I’d write an answer in long format.
So. Which hotel affiliate programs should this person take a look at? Let’s take a look at the contenders:
– HotelsCombined –
HotelsCombined pay per lead generated, which means that you are earning even if your visitors aren’t booking anything. However, the lead value fluctuates according to your user’s behavior. So if your guests are booking the hotels they find with HotelsCombined, your lead value goes up. A recent problem with HotelsCombined, however, is that they are so widely used that many travel sites are starting to look the same.
Commission: Between USD $0.50 and $2.00 per lead.
– Booking.com –
Booking.com has been around for a really long time. They have awesome content, meaning they have a huge amount of hotel properties and they have very competitive pricing. They offer a good partner program, they pay per booking, and there is a detailed partner website. It’s quite easy to customize a whitelabel site from booking.com so getting started is fast and simple.
The biggest drawback is that most booking.com bookings are “book now, pay later” which means that cancellation rates are above average and revenue is not realized until after the guest has stayed at the hotel and paid, as opposed to HotelsCombined, where revenue is generated and realized immediately. Booking.com is owned by Priceline which is the world’s largest travel company.
Commission: Vague. Their website states the following: “We guarantee to pay commission on all realised bookings, according to a commission split model. The percentage is related to our commission, so you will enjoy the maximum benefit when we improve our commission terms with hotels. The model is performance related, the more bookings a partner does, the more the partner earns.”
**UPDATE** We recently switched over to Booking.com from HotelsCombined. While customers may experience a lack of choice when to comes to where they book, there is no loss in hotels available. Booking pays a higher commission (by far) than HotelsCombined. If we were just starting in the hotel business now, we would probably go straight to them. Our experience has been that they pay an average of €30 per booking.
– Agoda –
Agoda is a hotel booking engine, meaning that if you set them up on your site the bookings take place with you. They pay for what they call “Departures” meaning that commission is generated after the guest has left the hotel itself, so payment is delayed until the guest who booked the hotel has left. This means that you are earning a commission only for actual guests, and is perhaps why Agoda can afford to pay up to 60% of the value of the booking to their affiliate partners.
Commission: Starts at 35% for 1 – 49 bookings completed and goes up to 60% for 1000+ bookings.
Site: Agoda Affiliate Program
– Expedia –
Expedia is huge, they have high prices, and thus pay good commission. Incidentally, they also own Hotels.com making them larger still but really just competing with themselves. Using Expedia is one way to be different as whitelabels on their hotel search are not as common as Booking.com and HotelsCombined.com. Expedia’s brand recognition also gives it considerable strength, so a co-branded option with them might also be good. Some would say that Expedia is one of the most recognizable travel brands in the world.
Commission: Split. 5% for Expedia Collect Inventory and 50% for Hotel Collect Inventory.
– Hotels.com –
Hotels.com is quite popular and has a lot of properties. They have an intuitive UI and their site is easy to use. However, joining them as an affiliate is not the easiest of tasks, as you have to select a certain market area and then sign up with a third-party affiliate network like Tradedoubler before you get started.
Commission: 5.5% commission per booking. This varies depending on your market and is not exactly clear on their site.
– Tripadvisor –
Joining the TripAdvisor Travel Affiliate Program enables you to partner with the world’s largest and most trusted travel community. Leverage our brand to enhance your existing travel programs, earn additional revenue, and provide your users with access to 30+ million reviews, plus 500,000 city and hotel pages.
– Directly With Hotel Chains –
Marriott, for instance,pay 3% on Completed Hotel Staysat one of their 3,700+ hotels. This less than at Hotels.com, so there is little incentive to get a smaller commission on a smaller inventory.
– Others –
There are a great number of affiliate programs and no way to do them justice in a single blog post. However, the ones above are the ones we think might be good for most people looking to add a hotel booking engine of some sort to their sites.
Here are some we know we missed (feel free to point out more in the comments):
-Finally, The Answer –
The right choice for you depends on the circumstances, how you want to present your offering to the customer, and the market segment you are targeting.
The answer to your question is really the answer to this question: What do you want to present to your visitors? The best comparison possible, or what will make you more money in the short term? Try out a few and get a feel for how customizable their search boxes are, how much info your users will get about each property and how much help you will get from the affiliate itself.