Hotel affiliate programs provide webmasters and bloggers with the opportunity to earn commissions by placing links to hotels or hotel reservation services on their sites. When site visitors click on these links and then reserve and pay for a hotel room, the site owner earns a commission from the sale. In addition to providing income for website owners, hotel affiliate programs provide both hotels and hotel reservation services with cost-efficient advertising. The hotel or reservation service only has to pay for this advertising if a sale is actually made to a customer.
Many hotel affiliate programs appeal to owners of travel websites and bloggers who write about travel, though owners of more general sites may also participate in these programs. Depending on the structure of the affiliate program, site owners may place banner ads for hotels and hotel chains on their websites or may include links to specific hotels and chains within their site copy. As readers click on these links or ads, they are brought to the website of the hotel or hotel reservation service, where they may choose to book a hotel room. The website owner will typically receive his commission weeks or even months after the reader actually pays for his hotel room so as to minimize the risk of paying an affiliate commission on a canceled reservation.
While some companies may manage their own hotel affiliate programs, many are actually managed through third-party services. These services typically handle the financial aspects of affiliate program management and may also host advertising graphics and links. These services may also act as a matchmaker between hotel affiliate programs and website owners, permitting website owners to select the affiliate programs that appeal to them while also enforcing approval standards set by advertisers. In many cases, these third-party affiliate management companies also provide fraud detection services, which can protect the integrity of the affiliate process and ensure that advertiser money is paid out to bona fide customers generated by a website.
Critics of hotel affiliate programs as well as affiliate programs for other types of businesses may argue that the affiliate sales process can make it difficult for online readers to discern between legitimate reviews of hotels and so-called advertorials published for the express purpose generating affiliate commissions. Some webmasters as well as affiliate advertisers have established policies that disclose affiliate relationships. These disclosures can help readers determine the credibility of online content concerning hotels.