ABTA convention is ‘irrelevant to agents’, says Travel Counsellors boss

David Speakman has accused ABTA of making its annual overseas convention “irrelevant to agents” as the number of frontline travel agents attending dwindles.

The Travel Counsellors founder attacked the association after Travel Weekly exclusively revealed that of the 1,191 delegates attending, just 250 of these are travel agents. Of the 250, only around 127 are actual frontline shop or home working staff, while the rest are head office staff.

Speakman said: “ABTA blames this on the fact that there are fewer frontline agents because of consolidation, but the simple truth is that the focus in no longer on the agent.

“The format and issues do not relate to them and that is why ABTA has seen such a dramatic fall in numbers year on year.”

The ABTA conference has seen a steady decline in the number of delegates attending – 10 years ago around 2,700 attended while in the past as many as half of all the delegates have been agents.

Speakman contrasted this with the 1,200 delegates which attended Travel Counsellors’ own conference in Manchester over the weekend, 600 of whom were actual selling counsellors.

He also revealed that Travel Counsellors saw a 21% growth in sales to £212 million for the year ending October 31. The home-working company is forecasting a turnover of £250 million for the forthcoming year and £310 million for 2009.

The company has also launched in Germany, South Africa and Australia in the last year.

Manging director Steve Byrne said: “We continue to put our agents at the heart of the business and that’s what makes Travel Counsellors a success.”

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