ABTA members have just four weeks to decide on far-reaching changes to the association’s structure that will see elected members on a reduced board cut from 18 to five.

The remaining seats on ABTA’s new nine-strong governing body will go to chief executive Mark Tanzer and three appointed directors – including one from outside the association and possibly outside travel.

Tanzer unveiled the proposals this week, which will be put to a vote at an extraordinary general meeting at ABTA’s headquarters in London on April 3.

He insisted the changes are essential and said independent agents would retain a voice in the organisation.

“These proposals are from the board. It is fully behind this, speaking with one voice,” he said.

However, board member Alan Cornish, head of tour operator Corona Holidays, has broken ranks. He intends to challenge the proposals at the EGM by forcing a vote on a proposal that they be referred back to the board.

Cornish said: “The board should represent and be directly accountable to the membership. If members don’t feel allegiance, they could walk away.”

Tanzer disputes this. He said: “The proposals will not make people fall off their chairs. I don’t anticipate a rejection. There is nothing that lessens the voice of independent agents.

“A smaller board will be more accountable. If there are members who fundamentally disagree they have had plenty of time to resign. We are not trying to take over the universe, but the industry needs a strong association. Everyone says so, even the ABTA bashers.”

Board member Noel Josephides is among those backing the changes, believing the proposed structure will be “sufficiently democratic”.

Britaly Travel partner Daniele Broccoli, who is also on the board, said: “We had to streamline. But some members will be unhappy. I don’t know if it will go through.”

ABTA changes timetable

March: ABTA distributes voting packs

April 3: EGM in London

May: final meeting of outgoing board

June: board elections

July: first meeting of board, comprising four elected members, chief executive and outgoing president. Board considers appointees

July 25: deadline for nominations for next president

September: election of president