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By Ted Alan Stedman
As the all-new PADI Travel™ Affiliate Program rolls out, PADI® Dive Centers and Resorts are poised to take part in a growing digital marketing presence that stands to significantly raise the bar for how dive travel is sold. This recently launched division replaces the former PADI Travel Network with a more comprehensive, refined program designed with additional benefits. Qualifying PADI Dive Centers and Resorts can now more precisely leverage PADI Travel’s expertise in the dive community to earn attractive commissions, help increase in-store sales and assist with organizing successful group trips.
“Helping PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to be more successful is our biggest priority,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “The PADI Travel Affiliate Program is a concrete way to help our dive centers leverage travel to grow their revenue, while keeping their divers engaged and drive even more divers into their stores. We’re excited to bring this new service to PADI Members.”
PADI Members who’ve been on board with their own dive travel agencies don’t need to be sold on the concept. Depending on location, anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of gross profits can generally be attributed to dive travel and the related purchases. For PADI Dive Centers and Resorts with defined offseasons due to weather or other seasonal factors, dive travel sales bridge the gap during those slow periods. When travel generates sales, dive centers see a corresponding uptick in gear purchases and specialty certifications sales as customers prepare for their dive vacations.
“Embedding travel into a scuba diving business is a proven way to get divers certified, keep them active and ultimately get them to take more courses and buy more equipment,” says Sandro Lonardi, PADI Travel head of marketing. The PADI Travel Affiliate Program is the easiest and most effective way for PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to start or boost a travel business, he says. “Referring divers to a trusted travel website or organizing your own group trips is key to maintaining a community of engaged, loyal scuba enthusiasts. The Travel Affiliate Program is designed as a turn-key program for qualified PADI Dive Centers and Resorts, and offers the tools needed to profit by selling travel.”
The Buzz on Affiliate Programs
In the Digital Age, the old ways of doing business have been broadsided by a barrage of internet-savvy business models that have turned the world of commerce upside down. Among these are affiliate programs. Simply put, affiliate programs (sometimes called associate programs) are business arrangements in which an online merchant pays affiliates commissions to send them traffic or referrals that result in a sale. There are always three parties in this arrangement: the customer, the affiliate and the merchant. These affiliate sites traditionally post links to the merchant site and are paid according to a particular agreement.
The affiliate program method was -pioneered in 1996 when Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com, popularized this idea as an internet marketing strategy. Amazon.com began by having affiliates post links to individual books for sale on Amazon.com, or for Amazon.com in general, and agreed to pay affiliates a percentage of the profits if someone clicked on the link and then purchased books or other items. The affiliate helped make the sale, but Amazon.com did everything else: took the order, collected the money and shipped the book to the customer. Needless to say, the digital affiliate sale model has skyrocketed beyond anyone’s imagination, well beyond books to every aspect of the -consumer marketplace.
The affiliate’s model makes practical sense on multiple levels. Recruiting affiliates is an excellent way to increase a brand presence and sell products (such as travel) online under the banner of an established brand – in this case PADI – which infers quality assurance. It’s also an economical and effective marketing strategy – a great way for a company to spread the word about its products, while increasing its presence through affiliates that can likewise capitalize on the brand association without investing much capital outlay.
Over the past few years, affiliate programs have grown enormously in popularity, taking many interesting forms. For many businesses with website portals that don’t exclusively rely on eCommerce, functioning as an affiliate is a good way to participate in eCommerce while being associated with a large established brand with superior name recognition.
PADI Travel Affiliate Program ABCs
So how does being a PADI Travel Affiliate work? Think of travel.padi.com as the platform for growing the scuba and freediving market. Through participating PADI Affiliates, PADI Travel combines every aspect of the dive travel experience under one virtual roof – from research, dive instruction and certification to travel purchases. The Affiliate Program takes into account the various physical assets, differences, limitations and opportunities of qualified participants, allowing for a customized approach tailored to the specifics of each PADI Dive Center or Resort.
As affiliates, qualifying PADI Dive Centers and Resorts can take the lead and sell any of the hundreds of destinations and live-aboard trips offered by PADI Travel. That means no more surfing to various sites or using search engines to root out dive travel destinations that may not be affiliated with PADI. On a practical level, the program is streamlined into three distinct segments: affiliate commissions; in-store sales; and group trips and charters. Each carries its own degree of profit potential, with considerations given to the spectrum of capabilities and circumstances of individual PADI affiliates. “We’ve worked with numerous PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to create the program from scratch, and it’s really designed to meet the needs of those who use it,” Lonardi says.
With affiliate commissions, the process is simple. PADI Dive Centers earn profits by referring divers to PADI Travel. These dive customers are most likely to prefer independent travel and are unlikely to book group trips. Dive centers can earn commissions in situations where otherwise there would be no sale. To capitalize on this new revenue stream, the shop simply needs to refer them to PADI Travel (ideally by using a trackable link or by placing the reservation directly on travel.padi.com on their behalfs).
The next tier of the program, in-store sales, allows PADI Travel to refer divers to PADI Dive Centers and Resorts. Once customers have booked dive travel, they’re more likely to purchase equipment and sign up for courses or other relevant dive services. After divers book a trip through PADI Travel, they’ll be sent follow up communications suggesting they return to the referring dive center to check out relevant training opportunities and new equipment suitable for their dive excursion.
The final segment of the Travel Affiliate Program, group trips and charters, provides PADI Dive Centers and Resorts with access to unbeatable service, group discounts, extra spots, dive show specials and free diver insurance when they book their group trips through PADI Travel. Additionally, PADI Travel takes the legwork out of organizing group travel. With a 24/7 customer support team, PADI Travel can deal with any issues as they arise – plus, the upcoming PADI Travel Marketplace makes it easy to fill any unbooked spots.
What It Means
If you’re among the PADI community who already sells travel, the Travel Affiliate Program can substantially enhance your efforts. PADI Travel gives affiliates access to a huge global selection of liveaboards and resorts, as well as outstanding marketing support that includes training guides and POS (point-of-sale) materials. For those with an in-house travel agency, you can count on access to the largest inventory of bookable scuba diving properties in the world – 400 and growing. That means any bookings you make through PADI Travel will earn cash at the standard travel agency commission rate.
If you don’t already sell travel, now you can earn an attractive commission for every diver you point toward PADI Travel. There’s no need to organize a trip, no need to do anything beyond being the connection between the customer and PADI Travel. In all cases, PADI Travel will show you the money by tracking referrals as affiliates are provided a special link or tracking code automatically associated with the seller and customer that triggers a commission payment once a booking with PADI Travel occurs. Sellers are also provided with offline materials combined with codes that ensure where and how sales are generated and ensuing commissions.
“PADI Dive Centers and Resorts will gain a trusted travel partner in PADI Travel,” says Lonardi, “Divers will be served by the best-rated travel expert team in the industry. Professionalism and knowledge are two key traits of PADI Travel Customer Service.”
PADI Travel offers a global approach to dive travel that hasn’t existed until now. Through the program, PADI Dive Centers and Resorts can use a powerful service designed to help grow more profitable businesses. “Inspiring and enabling divers to explore the world is a proven way to keep divers active, motivate them to take more courses and purchase the appropriate equipment for dive adventures of a lifetime,” adds Lonardi. “The PADI Travel Affiliate Program will help grow the dive industry and increase dive travel profitability while inspiring divers to travel the world.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the 4th Quarter Edition of The Undersea Journal.