INSTITUTE of Travel and Tourism chairman Steven
Freudmann said he expects one major operator to go out of business this winter
as a result of the worst market

conditions he has ever seen.

He said three successive years of bad trading had
battered the industry and threatened its survival. “It’s not just small
independents who are struggling. It’s clear the large players are in difficulty
as well,” he warned.

Speaking at a Tourism Society debate last week,
Freudmann refused to name any operators but said: “It’s my opinion that a big
player is likely to fail this winter.”

He said it was an indication of just how bad market
conditions were. “Frankly we need two or three years of sustained, unqualified
growth to reverse the damage of the past three years,” he told Travel Weekly.

His comments come as industry speculation surrounds
the future of MyTravel, which issued another profits warning last month.

Civil Aviation Authority deputy head of the consumer
protection group David Moesli said it had been surprising there had not been
more failures to date.

Freudmann said the strict financial criteria put in
place by ABTA and the CAA meant there had not been more casualties.

He added: “We are holding our breath because business
is more difficult than anyone can remember.”

ABTA president John Harding said companies had been
“very resilient” considering market conditions. He added cruising remained an
area which seemed to be selling, although this had been influenced by
discounting.

Twenty-seven ABTA members
have failed so far this year.