Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Should the industry really ban affiliate sites?

The Travel-Rants blog, one of the most popular UK travel blogs, which has a reasonable amount of clout with online consumers and, increasingly, the UK national press, today calls for a ban on affiliate travel sites.

Darren Cronian, the blog's editor, complains that entire websites are being created based on affiliate schemes and are often passing themselves off as holiday websites.

The issue is made all the more confusing, he suggests, by the inclusion of ABTA and ATOL certificates on websites, perhaps leading consumers to believe that they would be protected by one of the schemes.

In some respects, Cronian has a strong argument. He is, as ever, championing the humble consumer as they increasingly shift their travel buying behaviour online.

"Travel companies should be made responsible for monitoring sites using its affiliate programs to ensure that these sites aren’t being created to trick the travel consumer into thinking that they are using a site of an established and bonded travel company."
The use of bonding/protection logos to hoodwink consumers is, of couse, something that should be addressed.

However where Cronian's argument perhaps falls down is in his plea to scrap websites which are using affiliate programmes to make money.

Indeed, banning certain websites per se is a thorny issue. The internet has become a fantastic platform for publishing information and creating new business ideas - such as affiliate programmes.

To argue for a ban on affiliate travel websites just because they do not appear to conform to the norm isn't really in keeping with free-spirited nature of the development of the web.
"What some individuals are doing through [sic] is creating complete holiday websites." So what...
Should we ban blogs just because we don't agree with what they say? Of course not...

The beauty of the web and the way people use it is that in many ways it is self-policing.

Consumers will realise a site is a dud eventually, whether it is a commerce site, media outlet or blog, social networking site or information portal.

NB: It is worth noting that, putting Cronian's valid protection issue to one side, travel companies enjoy the benefits of the affiliate marketing industry more than most consumers probably realise.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution



I agree completely.

Affiliate marketing drives a huge amount of leads to travel websites, which in turn generates revenue and the ability to enhance their products.

Just because some of the sites look c**p and unprofessional doesn't mean a thing.

As for the ABTA-ATOL logos, would a consumer really book a holiday on the end-site, after being referred, if it subsequently didn't have protection? I'd bet not.

Jamie Winter said...

Darren has and does always think of the consumer first. But in calling for affiliate travel websites to be scrapped he is missing the point entirely.

Kevin: you hit the nail on the head by saying that the web is a commercial free-for-all. Without that sense of anything-goes, the web would not have become what it is today.

To cherry pick what should and shouldn't be allowed is proposterous. And, as you said Kevin, the travel industry does very well indeed sir out of affiliate marketing.

I hasten to add that Darren's site is not a dud - in fact it is really quite good. It is just his opinion on this occasion does fall into a dud-like category.

Darren Cronian said...

John Franks>>

Just to clarify, the affiliate site displayed the ABTA logo highlighting that the site was a member of ABTA, which is obviously not the case.

As a consumer myself, I am trying to educate consumers into checking the ABTA or appropriate travel association number before booking their holiday, and I think it’s important that there’s no confusion.

Surely on affiliate sites there could be a standard paragraph included where consumers are informed that it’s an affiliate site, and their booking will be through the appropriate travel company when they click the link or banner.

Maybe this could help with any confusion?

Jamie Winter>>

As I mentioned in my post, I have no gripe with sites that provide unique content, and add banners and links to travel company’s products.


I spend a lot of time online researching many of my blog posts, and they are is a worryingly growing number of affiliate sites which are poorly designed to confuse consumers, send them around loops, throw popup banners and this gives them a poor experience of booking holidays online.

Surely it’s in the interest of travel companies who offer affiliate programs, to patrol their affiliates better, and help cut out some of the poor sites you see on the internet.

I’m not a travel professional, just a blogger, and I am looking at this from a consumer’s perspective, many are experienced using the internet, but many are not.

Albert Barra said...

I'm also discussing this issue at my blog, but happens to be in spanish. Nobody is mentioning the effect og Affiliate sales on intermediation cost for hotels. I do care for hotels when distributing their inventory through merchant sites, that need to lower their net rates and mark-up their selling prices in order to have enough margins to pay affiliates and still making money.

Finally, the affiliate fees are paid by hoteliers.

Darren Cronian said...

I'm disappointed that the discussion on affiliate websites has not gone very far, no one seems to want to talk about it.

Is this because travel companies REALLY don't care about how affiliate sites look, and what experiences consumers are having with these sites, because it these sites bring in revenue to their business.

If that's the case it's a very blinkered view to affiliate sites. Funny, the site in question has still got the ABTA logo on it, which belongs to TUI, even though the affiliate site have no association other than they are an affiliate site.

Hmmm maybe we should all create crappy affiliate sites, slap an ABTA logo on and bring in the money..

peter said...

I don't understand why regulation should put its hands on affiliate websites. They do not operate anonymously. My company operates a large scale travel affiliate program, that you can see from here: Everything is done according to the regulations and the consumer is able to see with whom he transacts. Most of the other travel affiliate programs are always build around the laws.

Dave said...

John and Peter

Have a look at my site at:-

Maybe this will change your opinion.