Travelers’ Path to Purchase: Insights for affiliate marketers

The digital landscape and travel industry continues to change. Online content consumption is rising, and the travel industry is increasingly fragmented, meaning there are more touchpoints for travel affiliate marketers to connect with to influence and engage travelers along their path to purchase. Gaining an in-depth understanding of the path travelers take while being inspired, researching, planning, and booking travel can help you reach them at every stage of the journey.


To better understand how travelers research and book trips — from how much time they’re spending online with travel content to which online resources they’re using to plan a trip — we partnered with Luth Research to conduct a digital study and survey of travelers in seven countries (Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, and the U.K and U.S.) to evaluate traveler behaviors and influences in the 45 days leading up to booking a trip. The Path to Purchase: Uncovering How Travelers Plan and Book study shares insights into what factors influence travelers’ decisions and help affiliate marketers develop effective marketing strategies to reach these travelers who are ready to book.

Download the Path to Purchase report

Inspiration: How travelers decide where to go

Across the seven countries surveyed, the average path to purchase or trip consideration window — when a traveler starts thinking about booking a trip — is 71 days. This breaks down to 33 days in the inspiration phase when travelers first start thinking about a trip and 38 days in the research and planning phase when travelers are browsing and narrowing options and considering final options right before booking. During these two phases, travelers are deciding where to go, how to get there, where to stay, and what they’ll do and they’re using various resources for inspiration and information.

Nearly three in five travelers didn’t have a specific destination in mind or considered multiple destinations when they first decided to take a trip, creating an opportunity to influence traveler decisions early on during the inspiration phase. But how are travelers being inspired? Among those using a resource throughout the path to purchase, social media (77%) is the leading online resource used for inspiration, followed by online travel blogs or review sites (49%), destination websites (45%), and OTAs (35%).

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What this means for affiliate marketers:

With travelers spending so much time looking for inspiration and conducting research before booking, affiliate marketers have a unique opportunity to diversify their content to reach travelers early in the purchase journey. This can range from inspirational photography and videography, to sharing top destinations and trending hotels of the season.

It’s also important to understand that your audience might be a mix of people actively researching a destination for their next trip and those who are browsing their social feeds as they daydream about their next getaway. This means you have an opportunity to share tailored content and appeal to and inspire an even wider audience to stay top of mind for current and future trip consideration.


The role of affiliate links and social media

Travelers using social media prior to booking a trip are primarily using it for inspiration and recommendations. For travelers that used social media during their path to purchase, 18% used links or codes from influencer recommendations, 20% among OTA users. Among travelers from the U.K., that number jumped to 22%, the highest among the surveyed countries. Package bookers that used social for trip planning were the most likely to use links and codes from influencer recommendations (23%), followed by vacation rental bookers at 22%.

When it comes to using links or codes from influencers, 55% of travelers used them during the middle of their booking journey while 43% reported using them earlier in the process.

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What this means for affiliate marketers:

The study shows a strong correlation between travelers who use social media during the path to purchase and affiliate link usage. To stand out in the saturated market, affiliate marketers should leverage social channels to post affiliate links in creative ways like adding a link to their bio. Utilizing a link in bio tools on social channels allows affiliates and influencers to measure clicks, drive traffic, and promote multiple affiliate links in one place. By investing in a link-in-bio solution, you can analyze your marketing efforts and refine your promotions to focus on top-performing products.


Factors influencing where to book

During the path to purchase, travelers consider a variety of factors when deciding where to shop and book their trip. However, these factors differ slightly depending on the type of travel purchase. For example, flexible cancellation is more important for vacation rental bookers (33%) than hotel guests (29%), compared to the 28% average among travelers. More than one-quarter (28%) of travelers value travel ratings and reviews, which jumps to 36% for vacation rental bookers and 30% for hotel guests.

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Overall, hotel guests want the best guest experience, and this dictates their booking decisions. This includes getting the best prices on travel (47%), an easy-to-use website (43%), transparent fees (31%), a positive previous experience (30%), and travel ratings and reviews (30%).

What this means for affiliate marketers:

Travelers can prioritize an array of things when booking their next trip. Tailor your content and messaging to your audience’s specific needs, whether highlighting hotels with flexible cancellations, vacation rentals with the best reviews, or resorts with the best rates and amenities. Whether it’s a blog that shares top-rated resorts in the area or using trackable links that drive to filtered pages highlighting top-rated or refundable options, by tailoring content to your audience’s needs you’ll be more likely to generate more clicks.


Travel inspiration can happen anytime and anywhere, providing an opportunity to influence traveler decisions leading up to booking. For more actionable insights on how affiliate marketers can reach and engage travelers today, download the path to purchase study. And, to inspire and influence travelers, apply to our affiliate program today and access all the tools and resources you need to succeed as a travel affiliate marketer.


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