ABTA claims the future of its annual overseas convention is secure despite only a fifth of this year’s delegates representing travel agencies.

Of 250 agency representatives attending The Travel Convention in Tenerife next week, around 127 are frontline high-street agents and homeworkers, the rest are head office staff.

The Thomas Cook Group is only taking nine delegates because the event clashes with its senior and shop staff conference. TUI Travel has 34 staff attending. High-profile attendees include TUI Travel chief executive Peter Long.

There will be 1,191 delegates compared with 1,393 last year, and 2,700 10 years ago. In the past, agents have comprised up to half of all delegates.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer acknowledged it was harder for frontline agents to attend. “There are fewer frontline agents out there [in the industry] because of consolidation. We’d like as many ABTA agents as possible but we recognise they can’t all make it. There have [in the past] been large numbers of hosted agents but operators now sell more direct.”

Already the Tenerife Tourism Corporation has revised a free pre-convention fam trip programme because just seven agents signed up. Organisers of the three-day programme around Puerto de la Cruz had hoped for 150.

Meanwhile, next year’s convention location will be decided in January – four months later than usual. China is understood to be a contender. “It may be China but it may be Timbuktu,” said Tanzer.

A decision has been delayed because of the appointmentof the new board, he added. “We thought it’d be good for them to see the event in Tenerife first.”

Tanzer said the convention did not anticipate making a loss. “We hope to break even – it will not be far off.”