Travel House owner Martin Morgan is calling on independent agents to fight back against the tactics of major operators to bid on brand names of independent travel agencies on Google.
Already Morgan has succeeded in getting a climbdown by Thomson Holidays, which admitted affiliate advertising agencies it employed to increase traffic to its sites had been bidding on the Travel House name.
Morgan, who owns 26 agencies in the south-west, claims that by using independent agencies’ brand names in sponsored links on Google operators create a relationship of mistrust with retailers.
Thomson Holidays and First Choice Holidays have regularly bid on the Travel House name in Google and the Thomson Beach brand has used the Travel House name in sponsored links to attract more clicks.
Morgan, who sold the Travel House chain to Thomson’s parent company TUI Travel in 2000 for £40 million before buying almost half of them back in 2004, said: “There should be a relationship between operators and retailers and this isn’t helping. I am not anti-Thomson and I don’t want to be a whingeing travel agent, but I need to safeguard my businesses and my 110 staff.”
The bulk of bookings made through the Travel House chain are for Thomson and First Choice holidays.
Instead of putting holidays on stop-sale, Morgan favoured a nationwide campaign in which independent agents take action against larger travel companies by clicking on their sponsored links, costing advertisers anything from 10p to £1 depending on the bidding process.
Last week Teletext Holidays won its second case against Directline, stopping it from paying for sponsored links using Teletext brand names.
Morgan added: “I can’t afford legal action, I’m only a small travel agent and I can’t see any other way for independents to fight back.”
Google said “click fraud” activity is picked up immediately and the advertiser is not charged.
Thomson said it was now reviewing its policy with relation to large third-party retailers.
- Read background and analysis on Google and brand bidding [Travolution]
Homepage image: Creativ Studio Heinemann / WestEnd61 / Rex Features
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