Abta to review subscription fees for 2022-23

Abta will review its subscriptions for 2022-23 after reporting a loss of almost £15.3 million for the 12 months to June last year.

The loss on trade association activity was only £2.5 million, with the shortfall due to Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ costly failure in July 2020. However, a reduction in services appears inevitable given the financial difficulties of members, with at least one senior industry figure suggesting Abta should cut costs “dramatically”.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer acknowledged: “We need a sensible level of subscriptions in the short and medium term and need to cut our cloth accordingly. We’ll look at our budgets and subscriptions for the financial year from July.”

He told Travel Weekly: “I hope we can maintain what we do. We have around 100 staff but some very small teams – some of just two people. We couldn’t deliver some services with one person.

“Not every member wants all our services, but all our services are wanted by some members [and] that is a challenge.”

Tanzer noted: “Historically, subscriptions have been based on turnover and different band rates. If we apply the same model there won’t be any subscriptions. So the board will look to recalibrate subscriptions as we go into the 2022-23 financial year. We can’t continue to run at a loss.”

However, leading industry accountant Chris Photi, head of travel and leisure at White Hart Associates, argued: “Abta needed to cut its overheads dramatically [and] it hasn’t reduced its head count. It’s difficult to justify administrative expenses of £8.4 million for a business of its size and revenue.”

Abta reported trade association expenses of £8.35 million for 2020-21, of which staff costs were £6.2 million. The association turnover was £4.4 million, down from £8.9 million in 2019.

Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, suggested: “Abta will be in no position to increase membership fees. They may well have to review some services.”

He noted turnover-based subscriptions meant “the likes of Jet2 and Tui keep Abta going”, but said: “Every trade association will be reviewing its cost of membership. Abta is not unique.”

Abta’s 2020-21 accounts, published just before Christmas, promised “a review of the subscription model and services”

The association gave a 50% discount on subscriptions in 2020-21 and deferred payments for 2021-22 for members with full-year subscriptions of £3,000 or less. The payments now fall due in two parts, 50% this January and 50% in April.

Abta confirmed the number of member companies fell to 928 last year. However, Tanzer pointed out: “There are more managed branches – some substantial businesses have managed branches – plus a lot of homeworkers.”

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