Ian Taylor offers some background information on the ABTA and FTO merger – part of a feature on how the tie-up will affect the travel trade

How the merger will work

  • The Federation of Tour Operators will retain its identity and structure, with its 12 members meeting monthly as a committee of the ABTA board.
  • An FTO nominee will join the board at the next meeting at the end of July.
  • FTO director-general Andy Cooper will retain his role and become ABTA head of development, responsible for future strategy.
  • Cooper says: “The FTO will have an independent voice in areas of concern to FTO members.”
  • The FTO will deal with health and safety, crisis management, responsible tourism and other work in destinations.
  • ABTA will be responsible for communications, talking to government, industry regulation, consumer protection and the code of conduct.
  • FTO members will pay a single subscription, less than the total of the combined subscriptions the majority that are ABTA members pay now.
  • The FTO will remain at its Haywards Heath office for now, with Cooper spending time at ABTA’s Newman Street office. ABTA will vacate the premises by next March and move to a new office with the FTO.
  • No job losses are immediately planned – the FTO has seven staff and ABTA 60.


  • 1950: Association of British Travel Agents founded by 22 companies.
  • 1957: First advertising campaign for ABTA logo: “The hallmark of an authorised agent”.
  • 1959: Tour operators allowed to affiliate.
  • 1964: Tour operator members establish own committee.
  • 1965: ABTA sets up fund to aid consumers in event of company failure.
  • 1967: Operators leave to found Tour Operators Study Group.
  • 1974: First major operator failure.
  • 1991: ABTA on brink of bankruptcy following series of failures.
  • 1992: Poll finds 91% of consumers identify ABTA with financial security and quality.
  • 2000: ABTA begins modernisation following near 50% fall in members. Changes under Blueprint for the Future include a single board of directors.
  • 2004: ABTA head of legal affairs Riccardo Nardi is accused of defrauding ABTA out of £1m
  • 2005: FTO and ABTA begin merger talks.
  • 2006: ABTA changes financial protection rules, limiting the size of future claims and cutting bonding costs.
  • 2007: ABTA changes articles of association and cuts board from 18 to nine, with five elected members. FTO declares merger talks at end.
  • 2008: FTO-ABTA announce deal in April and merge on July 1.