ABTA proposals to slash the number of agency representatives on a reduced board of directors have provoked a furious reaction.

Former board member Sandy MacPherson said: “A reduction in the size of the board is long overdue, but it would be nonsense to have one travel agent on the board. I would fight this tooth and nail.”

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer expressed dismay at the leak of plans that appear to include halving the board from 18 to nine and cutting the number of agent representatives from nine to one or two.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer says reports of changes to the association have been garbled and that nothing has been finalisedHe said: “A number of issues are under discussion, but no proposals have been finalised.” Tanzer refused to give further details, but said reports so far had been “garbled”. However, he insisted: “There is strong support on the board.”

Former ABTA president John Harding said the changes would “alienate a lot of independent agents”. “They will ask why they need to be part of ABTA,” he said.

ABTA Midlands chairman Charles Eftichiou added: “If agents feel ABTA is not agent-friendly, there is a problem.”

One senior source warned: “It will be a tough sell. Some independents will think it’s no longer the association for them.”

But Tanzer said: “We need to get away from every issue going through a board that meets every two months. All members will be represented in the new structure, including small independents.”

He expects the proposals to be finalised within two months and said members will be consulted before a ballot.

By Ian Taylor


The changes

The Association of British Travel Agents has long been known by its acronymn ABTA, but this is soon to become official according to reports of changes being proposed by the association’s board.

If the changes are given the go-ahead the association will become known simply as Abta, and, just as BAA lost any reference to airports when it ditched the longhand version of its name, will cease to refer directly to travel agents.

But this is just one of many changes the association is proposing, the most fundamental of which will see agent representation at board level significantly reduced as ABTA strives to transform itself into the association that represents the entire travel industry.

Other changes include opening up membership to airlines, ferry operators and accommodation-only suppliers.

By Lee Hayhurst


What do you think?

  • By trying to widen its remit does ABTA risk losing its identity, particularly the strong consumer recognition that many feel is its most valuable asset?
  • Is it time for independent agents to find or create a representative body that will concentrate on their issues?
  • Is ABTA risking alienating independent agents and undermining their reasons for paying subscription fees and bonding costs?

Send us your thoughts by email. The best will be published on the letters page of next week’s issue.