ABTA is launching a free text message service which will alert its operator members of serious incidents.

Head of business development and consumer affairs Keith Richards said about half of the association’s 781 operator members have signed up to the scheme so far, which is due to be launched in May.

It will alert senior staff to any emergency affecting customers, staff and destinations relevant to their programmes and give them regular updates via their mobile phones.

Richards said: “We’re hoping to get all the membership involved, you never know when there might be another tsunami and you will need to contact everybody about it.”

He added the service would allow ABTA to provide the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with more accurate data in an emergency.

In the aftermath of 2004’s tsunami, the only reliable source of numbers of UK tourists overseas was the Federation of Tour Operators, which has a much smaller membership.

Richards added the service will not alert operators about destinations they don’t feature while the bulk of the necessary information will remain on ABTA’s website. The texts will serve to alert the recipients of any changes to a situation.

ABTA member operational support manager Susan Lamb added: “This text broadcast service provides us with an opportunity to provide greater depth to our growing crisis management and support work for members.

“No matter what time of day or night a crisis happens, we will be able to respond with up-to-date information for our members.”