One day, in the not too distant future, a clever resort marketing director (MD) will sit down with their GM for a heart-to-heart. It may go something like this.
MD: Do you know what an affiliate program is?
GM: Yeah, it's a way for people to send traffic to a site and get a share of revenues generated from their traffic.
MD: Well done. Indeed. Do you know what I'm about to ask you?
GM: You want to start one?
MD: Yes, but I also want to hire someone to manage it full time.
GM: Are you serious?
MD: Look, no other resort is doing this. And the only player thats doing any form of this is Liftopia. Have you ever wondered why virtually ever ski blogger has Liftopia banners on their site? That's why.
GM: I'm listening.
MD: If we setup an affiliate program for everything – not just tickets – and had someone who had nothing else to do but get as many people into our program as possible, train them to be successful, and treat them as good as possible, in one season we could be THE resort that bloggers, apps, sites, you name it, choose to promote. Period.
GM: And then everyone copies us?
MD: Sure, but they would be 1, 2, 3 years behind in both technology but also relationships.
GM: And this makes financial sense?
MD: It could. We pay a cut to OTAs on lodging bookings, right?
MD: We pay a cut to Litopia, right?
MD: We'll take a cut to push out a discount to fill beds, right?
MD: We already do the same thing, we just have to do the math again for a new channel.
GM: Give me some numbers.
MD: Okay, let's say we can get 250 affiliates signed up for next season. Reasonable?
GM: I think so.
MD: And each of them sends us 500 visitors over the course of the season. Sound fair?
GM: So far so good.
MD: That's 125,000 website visitors. Do you know how many we average a month during the winter? About 50,000.
GM: And in dollar value?
MD: Our site converts at about 0.3%, which means we'd have 375 incremental transactions.
GM: And our average order amount?
MD: Right around $1,500.
GM: So, $560,000 in sales, a $75k salary for the guy to run this, a 3% cut to affiliates…let's see…about $17,000…
MD: Not bad, eh? And remember, affiliates are like employees…the more you train them, the better they get at their “jobs”.
GM: Well, the financial guys will have the final say, but I'm intrigued.
MD: I thought you might be.
GM: Will it work?
MD: There's only one way to find out…
They'd go out and hire a top affiliate program manager from a non-ski industry, go all-in on the idea, and completely own the resort affiliate market in a single season.
It'll happen. The only question is…when…and will Vail Resorts do it first.