Will Offbeat Guides Make You Want To Go There?

I was just invited to join the group Offbeat Guides on Facebook, which consequently gave me the idea to see what’s new on Offbeat Guides since I met the Founder Dave Sifry this summer for a video interview.

Once on the site, I directly spotted the new affiliate program launched by the travel guides online provider, a program still in beta. This is funny because this program makes an awful lot of sense for the type of product that Offbeat Guides sells, but it never crossed my mind that the team would put this up so quickly. I love surprises.

How does the affiliate program works? Just like any other affiliate program, type in your address and Paypal creds, create an affiliate code, and you’re ready to go. Next step is to create custom links for your various promotional needs.

So far, the main promotional tool is the link builder:

Leads you generate are directed to this box that you can set up in many different ways, by pre-filling some travel info and leaving some other blank, to be filled in by your lead. The flexibility of this tool makes it possible for marketers to chose from a wide array of different promotional techniques – from promoting an event (Ashland’s Shakespeare festival for example) by setting up the time and place of the travel guide, to simply promoting a place to travel to.

To push even further, marketers promoting discounted rates on several destinations on specific dates can leave the destination box blank and just set the dates. Somehow, in this scenario, an Offbeat Guides’ affiliate link could turn into a sales enhancer, if the info served by the travel engine is valuable enough to make leads want to travel ‘there’.

All the additional info about the affiliate program is on this page.

The link builder is most likely the first of a series of tools for affiliates. Display ads and widgets are probably on their way, and developers can already code direct calls to the travel guide’s API, which only reads specific info so far (Destination, Origin, Name, From (date), To (date), Staying, Affiliate / Partner ID, Program Code, Step): Enough for marketers (most likely tour operators) to start expanding on the possibilities.

When I first heard of Offbeat Guides, I thought that selling books online didn’t sound so promising, even though it uses a personalization engine and evolves in the multi-million dollars market of travel ecommerce. The affiliate program gives Offbeat Guides a lot more sense. It positions it as a unique actor on the market.

I can’t wait to see what is next. Obvioulsy, offering an affiliate program is one thing. Along with this, they are also taking a responsibility in the lead’s conversion. In the end, I think Offbeat Guides’ main challenge lies in the quality of its internal search engine, that needs to pull back the best from the world wide web to make you want to go there.

I’ll conclude on Alex Brainbridge’s predictions: 5 years ago, Review websites published reviews (although there were only a few around).
Today, Review websites sell flights, hotels & car hire.
In 2 years, Review websites (and destination information sites) will have all been purchased by suppliers or big travel companies (as a step to try to retain competitive advantage).

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