ABTA-FTO merger ‘will increase lobbying power of travel trade’

ABTA and the Federation of Tour Operators claim their merger will make the organisation stronger in its dealings with Government.

The merger, announced last week, will see the FTO keep its brand identity and membership. The FTO will pass over its responsibility for financial protection to ABTA although it will bring its expertise on crisis management and health and safety into the new association.

FTO director-general Andy Cooper said the organisation will have a clearer strategy and direction. He added: “We have moved to a point where there are more things that unite us than divide us.”

He said that when lobbying the Government the joint ­organisation will have a stronger voice to represent the views of travel agents, tour operators and the wider travel industry.

“It’s about explaining what the industry does. Outbound tourism is not loved by the Government. We have absolutely no sponsoring department.”

ABTA head of policy and communications David Marshall said: “We want to get the message across that the travel and aviation industries are not an easy touch.”

Hays Travel managing director John Hays said: “The boundaries between agent and operator are merging anyway. We started off as an agent and we’re now moving into tour operating. The new body will carry much more weight.”

Peter Goord Travel proprietor Anthony Goord urged the association not to lose sight of the needs of the majority of its members – high-street travel agents. He added: “ABTA has to have a much higher profile so that clients are aware of the benefits of booking through an agent that’s an ABTA member as opposed to one that isn’t.”

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