Former Abta president John Harding has died, his family has confirmed.

Harding, who was 72, worked for the likes of Rainbow Holidays, Centurion Holiday Group, Hotels4u and Travelscene in a career spanning half a century.

Described as one of the industry’s best-loved characters, he retired in 2009 and moved to France. He died on January 11.

Harding’s career in travel began at P&O Steamships in 1959 and included his stint as Abta president in 2003-2004 among other senior industry roles.

Mark Tanzer Abta chief executive said: “It was with deep regret that Abta heard today of the death of ex-Abta president John Harding.

“John was passionate about the travel industry, particularly championing the interests of the independent sector.

“Over the years John worked on various Abta committees and the board, before finally being elected as president when serving as a director at city break specialist Travelscene.

“John will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, both professionally and personally.”

John’s family have extended invitations to his funeral to anyone in the trade who wants to pay their respects.

The service will be held at 2pm on February 10 at the Three Counties crematorium, Braintree, Essex. A wake will be held at the Green Man, Lindsell, Essex, after 3pm.

Harding’s fiancé, Christine Cox, has asked for prior indication of attendees by Feb 5 by emailing

Rather than flowers the family has suggested a donation to cancer research to be collected by G.W Hardy and Sons, 36 Nether Gate St, Clare, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 8NP.