A merger between ABTA and the Federation of Tour Operators is back on the cards.


A deal is believed to be close to completion with talks between the organisations understood to be at an advanced stage.


One industry source said a decision could be announced as early as next week. “It’s just a case of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts as far as ABTA is concerned. The board decision has been made at the FTO,” said the source.


ABTA confirmed it was in talks with the FTO about a merger, but refused to make any comment. A spokeswoman said: “Details will be announced soon.”


Federation of Tour Operators director-general Andy Cooper also declined to comment on the merger talks, but said: “We have a close working relationship with ABTA and a huge overlap of membership.”


A merger between the two was first mooted at the end of 2004, with initial discussions taking place in May 2005.


But in June 2006, ABTA president Justin Fleming announed the time was not right for the pair to join forces, saying: “We could not find enough common ground to proceed with a merger. We decided to stop the talks because we see no value in continuing.”


ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer is known to be in favour of a merger and it is understood the recent changes in the structure of the association and its board removed some reservations on the part of the FTO, which represents the country’s leading tour operators.


ABTA declined to give details of the process required to gain approval for any merger under its new board.