If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the travel industry anything, it’s the value of having alternative revenue streams. Because when catastrophe strikes—and you physically can’t take bookings—a secondary source of revenue can help you stay afloat until the world rights itself.
Fortunately, we live in a digital society where customers can interact with your brand without physically coming to you. Your website, for example, can afford multiple opportunities for you to earn additional income. Here are just a few ways you can monetize your travel website.
Sell ads on your travel blog
I hope you already have a blog on your website. Because blogs are just plain good marketing. They engage your audience, improve your SEO, and build your brand. On top of all that, they are a potential source of revenue for you.
The easiest way to monetize your blog is by signing up with an ad network such as Google’s AdSense. The network will do all the hard work of selling ads to advertisers. All you have to do is create amazing content that your audience will love and provide space on your site for the ads to appear. How much you can earn will depend mostly on how much traffic your blog generates. The more active your blog, the more people will see and click on ads, and the more passive income you’ll earn.
The biggest downside of using an ad network is that you’ll have limited control over whose ads are displayed next to your content. (You will be able to set some parameters, but it’s not foolproof.) For complete editorial control, you could sell ads directly to advertisers. This is potentially more lucrative, since you’re cutting out the middle man. But the time and effort you’ll need to put into selling and managing ads will take attention away from other priorities (like serving customers). Therefore, this option is more suitable for larger companies with resources to spare.
Earn commissions by recommending affiliates
Affiliates are brands who agree to pay you a commission in exchange for referring sales to them. You can sign up for affiliate programs directly with companies like Booking.com or Amazon. Or you can utilize an affiliate network such as TravelPayouts that brings many different affiliate programs together in one place.
When you sign up for an affiliate program, you’ll be provided with custom links that you can use to send people from your website, email or social media to the product or service you’re recommending. This is very important because the custom link is what allows the brand to track where recommendations come from and who they owe commissions to.
Affiliate marketing works best when your recommendations are authentic. So choose products and services you are familiar with, can vouch for, and are compatible with your brand values.
Leverage your email list with sponsored newsletters
If you’ve been in business for awhile, then you probably have a list of email addresses for customers and prospects you’ve communicated with. Hopefully, you are staying in touch with them via a company newsletter. If your email list is active and engaged, that newsletter can be a valuable piece of advertising real estate.
The quickest way to monetize your newsletter is by using it to recommend your affiliates. For example, you might write a review of a product or service and include your affiliate link.
Another option is to sell advertising space in your newsletter. You can insert an ad at the top or bottom of your content, or you could give an advertiser the opportunity to take over one entire issue of your newsletter so their content is all the email subscriber sees.
Email sponsorships will be most effective if they are contextual and relevant so that readers don’t get turned off and unsubscribe. For example, if you normally send out newsletters about travel in the South Pacific, then don’t suddenly send a sponsored newsletter all about car insurance. Travel insurance, maybe. Car insurance, no.
Finally, make sure you’re abiding by all relevant privacy laws. This means, among other things, that you never share your contacts’ email addresses with advertisers.
Fill an estore with branded merch
Selling merchandise online is easier than you might think. Especially if you partner with suppliers who will handle order fulfillment for you.
There are countless drop-shipping companies that will print your logo or other designs on a vast array of products—such as t-shirts, beach towels, and mugs—then, ship those products to customers on your behalf. Just be sure to do your research because you’ll want the quality of the products to reflect positively on your brand.
Another option would be to partner with local artisans and craftspeople to supply unique, made-to-order products just for your customers. By doing this, you’ll be supporting your local community while showing the world what your destination has to offer.
Share your expertise with online courses
Don’t overlook the value of your knowledge. You might be surprised who’s willing to pay to learn what you already know. The online learning website Udemy, for example, lists courses for The Ultimate India Travel Guide, All You Must Know To Spend A Great Holiday In Morocco, and Food Culture In Afghanistan just to name a few.
Choose a topic for your course that you know your customers would be interested in. That might be a yoga class, a cooking class, or lessons on your local language and culture. Then, you’ll need to develop the content. Most online courses consist of a series of videos that walk students through the topic one step at a time. The videos may be accompanied by written materials, worksheets, and even “assignments” that students are asked to complete after each module.
Developing a course can be fairly labor intensive, but the investment you make creates an asset that can deliver residual income for years to come.