ABTA board members are hoping a surge of late bookings from delegates will help this year’s Travel Convention turn a profit after making a loss for the last two years.

The association has revealed its unaudited accounts show the 2008 convention in Gran Canaria made a loss of about £36,000, £12,000 less than the previous year, when it lost £47,977.

However, ABTA board member Noel Josephides said many travel agents and tour operators were waiting to see how they perform for summer 2009 before committing to paying to attend the event.

He added: “It is going to be difficult for anyone to accurately forecast what we get for any conference; in the same way that [consumer] bookings are coming in late, so it is with the conference.

“The Travel Convention is something the association is proud to do, the difference is in a recession, or when things are difficult, it is the first thing that people tend to cut.”

Josephides said some agents may feel it makes more commercial sense to attend their own consortia’s conferences. Most of the consortia conferences are being held in the UK.

Board member Daniele Broccoli, of Britaly Travel, admitted he had already bought his flights to Barcelona where the conference is being held, but is yet to pay for the conference package and he believes many other agents are doing the same.

He added: “The [delegate package] sales are slightly down, but I think at the moment, people are waiting.

“We’ve sold about 80% of our advertising space; it looks like we’ll be on target for what we want to do.”

An ABTA spokeswoman said the association had sold a similar amount of delegate packages this time last year, and aims to attract about 1,000 delegates.

She added: “The board appreciates the fact that there are some years when the convention will make a profit, and other years when it’ll make a bit of a loss.”