Attack of the "Partner Booking Link"

Agents often have suppliers asking them to use their "Partner Booking Link" websites. These are websites that sell only that supplier's brand - and look and act like the cruise line's or tour operator's website, but have the agent's contact info. While these programs appear to be appealing, they are truly a disservice. I truly think it is not in the best interest of the agent to EVER affiliate in this manner. Here's why...

As an agent, you need the consumer to come directly to you. If in going to you, you immediately direct them to something that looks like the cruise line's site then the message you're sending the consumer is that the cruise line is the expert. The next thing that goes through the consumer's mind is - well why do I need to go through the agent - I'll cut out the middle man and save myself money. Partner Booking links send the wrong message to the consumer, and encourage the wrong behavior. The message you're sending when you use such a link is that you're not the expert, the cruise line is. It encourages direct booking behavior from the consumer in a subtle but effective way. The messaging throughout the site can have your contact info in bold blinking lights, but the consumer gets the branding message to book direct with the cruise line.

The one thing to remember is that consumers typically visit a site 6 times before making a buying decision. In the case of a partner booking link, it's hard to believe that by time #6 the consumer is still typing in your address rather than the supplier's directly.

Imagine for a moment that a cruise line offered to take your phone calls for you and give you a commission on any sales they make - do you think that your consumers would be in better off in their hands? Do you think people would continue to call you? Would your client base grow? Would you make more money? If you think the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it's time to rethink your place in this business.

As cruise specialists we're driven to add value to every transaction through better advice and experience, better insurance, unbiased advice and a commitment to truly act as the advocate for the consumer. You can't do this when unbiased info doesn't appear on the web page and is completely out of the equation. Partner booking links commoditize what agents do, and they're truly your enemy. Treat them that way and thrive.
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