ABTA and FTO merger welcomed by travel trade

A merger between ABTA and the Federation of Tour Operators has been welcomed by the travel trade.

The boards of the two trade associations agreed the deal, which has been mooted in the trade for more than three years, yesterday.

Andy Cooper will continue as director general of the FTO and will take on the role of head of development at ABTA, looking at the future strategy for the amalgamated trade association. Mark Tanzer will retain the role of ABTA chief executive.

Under the agreement, the FTO will keep its brand identity and membership as part of ABTA Ltd. The FTO will become a formal committee of the ABTA board and it is intended that FTO members will nominate a candidate for one of the appointed positions on the ABTA board.

Cooper said the merger agreement had taken time as “it was about getting the structure right”.

He confirmed that FTO will retain its expertise on issues including health and safety, crisis management and responsible tourism, while ABTA will retain its role in financial protection and ­consumer standards.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “FTO and ABTA have had a very close working relationship for several years in respect of policy issues, and the formal combination of the two associations will bring about operating synergies which will give us the capacity to create a stronger lobbying voice, be more effective, and save costs.”

Both organisations will operate out of one office, although this is unlikely to be finalised by July 1. ABTA operates out of Newman Street offices in central London, while the FTO is based in Haywards Heath, Sussex.

Cosmos overseas and ­purchasing director Hugh Morgan, who is an ABTA board director and a former FTO ­director, welcomed the move.  He said: “This is going to bring everyone under one roof and allow us to shout louder with one voice. There were times in the past when there was duplication.”

ABTA president Justin Fleming confirmed that part of the decision for the merger was to cut subscription fees for companies. He said: “It would have been of no interest to anyone in the ABTA membership if we had lost any of our larger members who realised they couldn’t afford to be members of both.”

Kinver Travel owner and former ABTA board member Sue Foxall said: “The move isn’t going to affect agents on the front line but it will add strength to both associations.”

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