ABTA board directors are to discuss ways to improve the association’s value for independent agents at next week’s board meeting following crunch talks with consortia bosses.

The news follows serious concerns by agents and Travel Weekly about the value of membership, which culminated in Worldchoice and Advantage bosses meeting ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer last week.

Worldchoice chairman Colin Heal called the subscriptions hike “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and admitted some members had withheld their payments. “We have had plenty who have threatened to leave [ABTA],” he said.

Advantage chief executive John McEwan added: “We have had questions raised about whether ABTA is good value and whether we can provide a viable alternative.”
He said the resignation of three Advantage agents in the past month was unrelated.

One proposal is for a consortia representative on ABTA’s board, but McEwan added: “It’s one of the options, but not the only one.”

Heal said Tanzer had accepted the need for change and pledged to raise proposals at ABTA’s board meeting on July 24. “He realised many agents perceive they are undervalued compared to bigger players.”

Both refused to discuss alternatives to ABTA. “We have options open to us but it’s premature to say what they are,” said McEwan.

Tanzer agreed the meeting was “useful”, adding: “We discussed ways that ABTA can make sure policy issues of the consortia members are fully addressed.”

Meanwhile, the Travel Trust Association hit back at suggestions it could not offer ABTA’s range of services. Director Todd Carpenter said: “We have a full range of services we pay for. Just because we don’t have them in house doesn’t make them less valid.”