Former Abta president Martin Wellings has blamed the association’s increased bonding fees for forcing him out of business.
The administrators have since confirmed the agency, which had an annual turnover of £14 million, has ceased trading.
Wellings said he had been caught unawares by “the substantial increase” in the bond’s renewal cost.
“It was a sudden decision made upon the bond renewal,” Wellings told Travel Weekly. “The increase in relation to turnover was about 60%.”
Eight shops, in Eastbourne, Haywards Heath, Seaford, Heathfield, Reigate, Hailsham, Bexhill-on-Sea and St Helier in Jersey, have been taken over by Cambridge-based Premier Travel Agency and will be managed by existing staff, while a ninth shop, in Battle, has closed.
Wellings, who was Abta president from September 2004 until May 2006, said: “After 54 years it is sad for this company to bow out.”
Abta and industry colleagues expressed surprise that Wellings had blamed the company’s demise on increased bonding costs.
An Abta spokesman said: “We haven’t suddenly changed our rules. As a former Abta president, Martin would have been fully aware of Abta’s criteria. He hasn’t been treated any differently.
“Just because we asked for a higher bond, that’s no reason to close your business down – there are alternatives.”
Britaly Travel partner and Abta board member Daniele Broccoli said: “If any company makes an increased loss the bond goes up. And you can always appeal.”
Wellings plans to continue to run his separate travel management division, PST Corporate.
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