Thomson expects to overtake Expedia and become the most visited travel website by the summer as traditional travel firms start to dominate the online sector.


Expedia.co.uk has long been the online market leader and achieved almost 9% of all travel industry hits last month, according to online research firm Hitwise.


TUI northern Europe new media director Graham Donoghue: expects Thomson.co.uk to become the leading travel websiteHowever, Thomson.co.uk is closing in fast with 7% of all travel hits in January, Lastminute.com was third with 5% and MyTravel.com fourth with 4.7%.


TUI northern Europe new media director Graham Donoghue was disappointed not to have become the leading online travel site in January, and still expects to achieve this by June or July.


Donoghue said online agencies are starting to struggle because they do not own product, resulting in Thomson’s battle for the top spot with Expedia, and MyTravel’s challenge for third place.


Hitwise figures show MyTravel overtook Lastminute.com with a 5.2% share of web visits for the week ending January 13, up from the 3.4% it achieved in the corresponding week last year. For the same week Expedia was down 9% to 8.6% with Thomson on 7.6%, up 30% on last year.


“The traditional players are starting to do well on the web. That will continue as we make the most of owning the product. I can’t see Expedia changing its business model as it has no experience of tour operating,” Donoghue said.


Thomson already out-performs Expedia for the number of search engine searches.


Although Expedia holds the official top spot with almost 2% of all travel searches, according to Hitwise, Thomson Holidays accounts for 1.2% of all searches and Thomson 0.8%.


The top 10 terms are a mix of brand names – including Thomas Cook, Airtours and First Choice – and phrases such as ‘cheap holidays’, ‘holidays’ and ‘cheap flights’.