Search site bosses slam ‘untrustworthy’ travel ads

The heads of holiday search sites Cheapflights and Travelzoo have questioned the value of industry advertising and the authenticity of some travel offers.

Speaking at the ABTA Travel Convention in Barcelona last week, Cheapflights chairman Hugo Burge said: “We took the banner adverts off our deals pages and now have a higher conversion rate – though it was not what we set out to do.”

He told an e-tid briefing at the convention: “People are just one click away online from something more trustworthy [Cheapflights’ search results].”

Travelzoo managing director Chris Loughlin said many of the advertised offers submitted for inclusion in a regular newsletter to Travelzoo subscribers did not stand up to scrutiny.

“We reject about 25% of all submitted adverts,” he said. “In the UK, that means throwing away about £2 million a year. But the quality [of offers] is essential. If we send a deal that subscribers do not like, there is a poor return rate.”

Loughlin said: “We probably spend three to five hours researching every deal we publish, and compare the market ourselves.”

He added: “We would happily run a top 20 [travel offers] newsletter with no advertising whatever.”

Burge rejected a suggestion that Cheapflights attracts people with little money, saying: “Some people have a problem with the word ‘cheap’. But in the consumer’s mind, cheap equals value. By definition, those looking online for travel are those with money to spend.”

The Cheapflights boss was critical of the continuing lack of transparency in airline pricing, saying: “We have brought the curtain down on companies that do not include taxes in flight prices. We turn companies away. All of us need to put transparency at the core of our product.”

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