TUI Travel is introducing third party advertising to its websites but has denied it is in response to financial pressures on its online channels due to the economy.
Travolution understands that the programme is still considered “experimental” by bosses but other areas of the TUI online empire are considering similar moves.
Advertisers using the programme so far include the NHS, Virgin Media and BT, handled in some cases by media network Ad-2-One.
TUI confirmed that the introduction of advertising to the sites is something that has “been in the pipeline” for over 12 months.
A spokeswoman denied the initiative was a safeguard against economic pressures, adding: “We’re performing in-line with expectations and the current.
“Work has been ongoing on this project for some time but the on-site developments didn’t come to fruition until December.”
Similar programmes have been introduced to a number of online travel brands over the past 12 months – including the addition of Google Adwords to giants such as Expedia – leading some usability experts to suggest that ad revenue generation is becoming a greater concern than overall user generation.
One leading user experience expert, who asked to remain anonymous and was not commenting specifically on the TUI development, told Travolution: “We are starting to see the overall look and feel of some fantastic travel sites impeded by the introduction of advertising.”
TUI denied the introduction of advertising impacted on the overall user experience of the site.
“Importantly it [advertising] doesn’t appear to detract from the user experience, but the aim is to compliment the experience by working with targeted brands and offering more than just banner advertising,” a spokeswoman said.