Online travel agents have not ruled out following Expedia’s example of Google Sponsored Links beside search results as a way of gaining further revenue.
Expedia has been trialling the initiative in the UK for the past three weeks and rival OTAs said they would consider such a move.
Opodo commercial director Andrew Wilson said the company was focused on giving consumers what they came to the site for such as cheap air tickets, hotels and car hire.
“If working with Google did that and increased the experience then we would but we’re very wary about changing the business model. We’re not selling links or advertising, that’s not what we’re here for.”
Wilson said that the company was not looking at a similar move to Expedia and was concentrating on initiatives such as offers and e-vouchers to improve the customer proposition.
Travelrepublic co-founder Kane Pirie said the company was open to the new model.
“Customers do shop around so the logic is to put the adverts up there so that at least you get some money.”
However, one search expert said OTAs needed to carefully monitor the number of people clicking away from their sites because of the sponsored links.
“They’re taking the view that at the point at which people click off they have not found what they want so it is an easy revenue win. Hopefully they’re doing their numbers. We will see similar deals,” he said.
And dealchecker.co.uk managing director Alex Saint said he felt travel agent sites were under-monetised.
“They may be forced to explore avenues they might not be comfortable with but they are not media people and there is a dramatic mindset shift.”
Matt Cheevers, managing director of Teletext Holidays, which has used an Adsense programme in the past before switching to an interanal system, said: “The reality of using Google ads in this way is that there will usually be a long list of exclusions for example I’d suspect that lastminute.com won’t be on the Expedia ads or Opodo.
“This will lead to there being irrelevant links to niche players and the click-through rates pretty poor and subsequently poor revenue.
“Rather than this take on it we are considering a bolder approach where on exiting our site customers will be offered links to competitors’ sites.
“We know that the vast majority of them will go on to do price comparisons with these companies so why don’t we offer them links from our site?
“So in essence yes what Expedia is doing can be successful if they take a fully inclusive view of it – making the pool of companies to feature in these ads too small and it will defeat the object.”