ABTA chairman candidates John McEwan and Daniele Broccoli have called for the association to broaden its remit to work more closely with travel companies that do not sell holidays.

Both have supported a review of ABTA’s 200-strong travel industry partner scheme to improve relations with companies that are not travel agencies or tour operators, such as price comparison sites and search engines.

Read more on the fight for the ABTA chairmanshipWhile Broccoli suggested a separate membership scheme for these companies, McEwan urged dialogue to improve ABTA-led lobbying efforts.

Broccoli said: “If we consider ourselves an association for the travel industry, then we need to make room for everyone who deals with travel and represent their views. We should think about reviewing the partnership scheme and giving non-transactional companies their own type of membership with a separate code of conduct.”

He added: “It would also bring in more revenue for ABTA, although [the companies] would still have to be up to a certain standard.”

McEwan said it was vital “bridges were built” with non-transactional travel companies. “ABTA should be seeking to represent the broadest elements of the industry. I am not suggesting non-transactional companies become ABTA members, but there needs to be dialogue on areas of common interest,” he said.

He added: “As part of the dialogue, we need to consider organisations such as Google. They are powerful organisations you cannot ignore. It may be a case of looking at the partner scheme, considering what partners get for their money, and refreshing it.”

ABTA senior membership marketing manager Stephen Barnes said the scheme was reviewed through a steering group once a year.

ABTA is keen to have companies such as Yahoo! and Google as partners, as well as to attract new members such as Expedia or Opodo, he said.

Cheapflights was invited to become an ABTA industry partner after initial opposition to its business model. UK general manager Francesca Ecsery said: “It has clarified our position in the industry after initial distrust of our online search and comparison model in the early days. It’s now recognised we are an opportunity rather than a threat.”

The ABTA chairman will be announced at the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Dubai in June.

Members must return their votes by June 10 at 5pm. An ABTA spokesman said the votes would be counted by staff at ABTA head office. In the event there is an 50/50 split, the ballot will take place again.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer will announce the result at the conference and it will be posted on the ABTA website. The new chairman will take on his duties immediately.

Travel Weekly contacted McEwan and Broccoli after they responded to a post by travel technology blogger Alex Bainbridge titled ‘The ABTA election – does it matter?’.

  • For more on the ABTA election go to www.travelweekly.co.uk/abtarace