Thomson has witnessed a dramatic four-fold increase in its online display advertising spend in the past year, as the top 20 UK travel brands have collectively spent an extra £5 million.

The TUI AG-owned travel multiple splashed out on £2.6 million worth of online advertising such as banners, buttons and skyscrapers in 2006, up from £600,000 in 2005.

The company also tops a list of the highest spending 20 travel-related brands, obtained by Travolution from Nielsen Media Research. The list does not include search marketing spend.

Overall the 20 brands boosted their online display campaigns by over 50% from £9.7 million in 2005 to £14.6 million a year later.

Another brand with a major push towards online display advertising was, third on the NMR list, which increased spend from £369,000 to almost £1.2 million between 2005 and 2006.

The hotel aggregator’s parent company Expedia was one of only six of the leading travel brands to have reduced its outlay on online display advertising, trimming down from £1.4 million in 2005 to £1.3 million in 2006.

The other companies were British Airways (down 13% to £1.6 million), Eurotunnel (down 6% to £752,000), Eurostar (down 22% to £674 million), Thomas Cook (down 20% to £434,000) and Virgin Holidays (down 25% to £352,000).

Earlier this week NMR figures revealed British Airways was the biggest offline media spender in the UK travel sector during 2006 with £23.6 million.

– Special report: Thomson’s online revolution – 8 Feb 2007