What started as a dedicated online climate guide has blossomed into an inspiring travel site with weather at its heart. Even as the world has hunkered down amidst the coronavirus, hope is everywhere for the end of this pandemic. Some travel-oriented people are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and booking holidays well into the future. Weather2Travel.com partners up with travel providers to aggregate the best travel deals and discounts for vacations in the sun. The site also offers destination guides, tips, and the information travellers need to decide when and where to go. Impact’s Richa Dani, Director of Strategic Partnerships, sat down with Colin Carter, Director, to find out more about the secrets behind Weather2Travel.com’s success.
Richa: Weather2Travel.com began more as a traditional weather site. Can you tell us about what sparked the expansion from data seller into full-spectrum travel resource, and who were your first travel partners?
Colin: We launched Weather2Travel.com back in 2005 with no preconceived idea as to what it would become. The initial concept was to use it as a showcase for selling climate data to online travel companies.
As we developed the website, there was a clear opportunity to offer holidaymakers useful and impartial information to help them make informed decisions about when and where to go on holiday. That concept still exists to this day.
We saw a natural link to working with travel brands, as we clearly sat in the research stage of purchase. Our early forays into affiliate marketing were with the main holiday providers such as Thomson (now TUI), Thomas Cook, Kuoni, Lastminute.com, and British Airways.
Richa: Your site has masses of content related to travel all over the world. How do you maintain that steady stream of information without resorting to sponsored content?
Colin: If you talk to any content publisher, this will be a common issue. Monetizing content is one of the hardest things to do, especially in affiliate marketing where everything is stacked in the pointy end of the funnel. This is magnified in travel even more with the long purchase path and high number of touchpoints.
A few years ago, we started working differently with a number of key partners who saw the value of content from a brand awareness point of view. These forward-thinking travel brands agreed to exposure and articles in exchange for tenancy payments. This approach lets us employ the best writers, safe in the knowledge that we’ve already covered our costs while keeping editorial control and maintaining our integrity and authenticity.
Richa: What is the advantage for a travel consumer of W2T versus one of the big online travel agents or other kind of aggregator? How are the two experiences different?
Colin: The most important aspect for our readers is that we don’t have a hidden agenda. We’ve always strived to provide the facts so that consumers can make up their own mind about where they go on holiday. If you like, we are an impartial research tool helping them narrow down their options.
We only publish statistics based on official scientific sources and employ writers who are experts in their given destination.
As we are nontransactional, we don’t have the same demands to push products that an OTA would. We can concentrate on giving our readers the information they need and inspiring them to consider all potential options.
Richa: Do your travel provider partners fall into any particular category that makes them a good fit for your network and your site users? Are there any travel companies you wouldn’t work with? Any new ones in your sites?
Colin: We’ve always been open to working with all types of travel partners, however we are obviously very strong in the leisure side of travel. We continuously work with holiday providers as a core base, but have found other travel niches work well, including travel essentials such as airport parking and lounges.
We are constantly looking for new partners who are engaged with what we are doing, reward us fairly and add value to our readers with the kind of unique travel experiences that they are looking for.
Richa: How does the Impact platform factor into your business model? You clearly have a lot of content creators to manage — do you use Impact for that? How about your affiliate relationships?
Colin: We have some key partners working with Impact — it’s become an important platform for us. We can monitor and benchmark our affiliate relationships, and use the marketplace to reach out to potential new partners.
Richa: Can you tell us about any new trends you’re seeing in the travel market for 2020, either in what’s being offered by your partners, what travellers are looking for, or hot destinations?
Colin: As we talk the world is in lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the travel industry with almost all non-essential travel being put on hold.
It’s very difficult to see past this current period and what the travel industry and the world itself will be like afterwards. Before coronavirus, the travel industry was slowly evolving with more personalized travel, new technological disruptors, and a growing trend to doing things differently, more sustainably and consciously, in travel.
The current lockdown is not only affecting travel companies of all types, but impacting holiday destinations and local businesses that rely on tourism as well.
Holidaymakers may have less budget in the future when travel is possible — so the knock on effects are likely to shape the travel market for years to come. We may well see local destinations becoming more popular with consumers deciding to stay within their country or neighboring countries to save money and give more peace of mind.
Richa: With so much upheaval in the travel industry over the years, publishers going under, and margins harder to maintain, how has W2T stayed relevant to travellers who have so many options online?
Colin: We can remain relevant to travellers by keeping close to our core values. Providing we continue to offer our unique weather content, useful travel tools, and inspiring content, our readers will continue to interact with our website.
By working closely with key travel partners, we can intertwine product information and promotional messaging to enable consumers to find the most suitable travel product and best deals.
Richa: Back to weather, which is where it all started for your brand. Weather and climate information seems to remain an important part of the experience on your site, yet consumers can get weather information anywhere. Why do you think it’s still a selling point?
Colin: Yes, well, weather forecasts are available from many different sources, however, we focus on the long-term view to assist consumers in research and planning for their next holiday.
If you’re booking a holiday for next summer, you can’t get a reliable forecast beyond the next few days. We present climate guides that represent 30 years of weather averages, giving consumers the best indication of what to expect months in advance.
We focus on weather parameters that are useful to holidaymakers and travellers — not only the typical temperatures and rainfall figures, but average hours of sunshine per day, UV maximum levels for sun protection, and sea temperatures.
We also created our own heat and humidity discomfort indicator, which gives those vulnerable to that combination an idea of when this can occur, as well as a tool that shows the probability of a tropical storm affecting your holiday destination.
The final piece of the puzzle is to allow consumers to interact and search for their ideal weather. Our “Best time to go” feature and our range of bespoke tools including beach holidays, city breaks, summer, and winter sun allow consumers to enter their preferred criteria to generate destination ideas.
Richa: Thank you so very much, Colin! Let’s hope we all can start traveling again sooner than later.
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