It was a case of “ship ahoy” as the 2007 UK affiliate marketing conference season ended on the high seas – well, London’s Thames – with Affiliate Future’s gathering on the docked HMS Queen Mary on November 19.

Affiliate Future’s strength is undoubtedly travel and it was no surprise the event was dedicated to the vertical. Entitled ‘Travel Masterclass 2007’, it was designed to give publishers a “deeper understanding of the Travel Industry and help you to continiue [sic] to build momentum in your promotions.” Alongside an exhibition area with about ten merchant stands, there were four half hour niche panel discussions focusing on Holidays, Acommodation, Flights, and Travel Extras interspersed with networking time.

The one thing – controversially – distinguishing this conference from all the other affiliate marketing ones this year, was there wasn’t the usual coverage of the affiliate marketing landscape, talk about developments in search or presentations on Web 2.0.  There wasn’t even the obligatory “next year will be the year of mobile marketing” lecture, which every affiliate marketing conference has had to suffer since about 2001.  Instead, the laser was very much focused on providing affiliates with a greater understanding of the merchants on each panel, the services they provided, and the trends in their particular sectors.

This meant the discussion on flights, for instance, had lengthy debates on the environmental impact of flights and the liberalisation of air travel routes.

This did not tickle the fancy of everyone. “There needed to be more questions from the floor to keep it B2B focused. The merchant-affiliate relationship is a B2B relationship and, quite frankly, we could give more of a hoot about their B2C relationships with their end-customers,” argued one of the most prominent travel affiliates in the UK on the Affiliates4U forums. “We are working as a sales channel for the merchants for heaven’s sake, not as a public relations channel. (They don’t pay us enough for that).”

The view was echoed by several people who said they would have preferred more guidance on how to become better affiliates and enhance their income.

However, this one criticism aside, the event was a titanic success. Alan Lansdowne, affiliate marketer and Editor of Attitude Travel, told Azam Marketing’s blog: “It is good that Affiliate Future are doing this kind of thing,  All networks can learn from it as I believe niche specific events are a great idea.”

At 7pm there was the traditional meal with the Captain, in this case Maz Darvish, who is the Captain of HMS Affiliate Future. Each network event seems to have outdone the other in 2007 and, with tables covered with white table clothes and petals, Affiliate Future demonstrated a touch of élan and elegance to end a delightful day.

Some pictures from the fabulous travel vertical event. See links below for more

More pictures of this conference, including world-first screenshots of the new Affiliate Future interface, here on Flickr or here on Facebook.

See exclusive pictures of Affiliate Future’s other travel vertical event here on Flickr. It took place in April in London’s Soho.