Hotels4u.com sales and marketing director John Harding has called for a root and branch review of financial protection as he comes up for retirement from the industry after 50 years.


Harding began his career in travel aged 16 loading luggage on P&O’s Stratheden and Himalaya from Tilbury to Australia. He is due to retire later this month from his job at bed bank hotels4u.com.


He became ABTA president in 2003 but was forced to resign after just 18 months because of the collapse of tour operator Travelscene, where he was sales director, which operated a non-bonded accommodation-only brand Citybedz.


Six years on, Harding believes little has changed to improve financial protection.


He said: “There needs to be a root and branch review of ATOL Protection Contribution. I think it’s string and ceiling wax. It’s trying to repair one hole in a tyre and there needs to be a reassessment. If people are flying somewhere this needs to be covered.”


Last month it was revealed that the £1 consumer-protection levy on holidays would rise to £2.50 from October, costing the trade and/or consumers an additional £30 million a year. The government plans to consult this autumn on reform of the ATOL system.


ABTA has led the trade response in arguing against an increase and for the ATOL scheme to be widened instead.


Harding added that dynamic packaging was likely to grow, driven by improved technology and that agents needed to ensure they had financial protection in place. “The agent needs to become a a travel organiser and make sure they have the right liability insurance in place to build whatever customers need. By having the right liability in place, they will retain customers,” he said.