ABTA is planning a brainstorming session with major bed banks after youtravel.com became the latest accommodation-only provider to quit the association.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer hopes the informal meeting in December with non-ABTA members and members will help the trade to come up with a solution to protect holidaymakers’ money if an agency collapses. Suggestions have already included a general fund to keep consumers’ money secure until agents pay the bed bank for the booking.
Tanzer said: “It’s such a big problem for the industry and pulling together people from inside and outside ABTA means we are saying this is an industry problem we want to solve.”
Earlier this week youtravel.com followed Thomas Cook-owned Med Hotels and hotels4u.com by leaving ABTA because it disagreed with the association’s ruling to make bed banks liable for bookings if an agency fails.
Youtravel.com chairman Graham Nichols said: “I am willing to participate in industry discussions to sort this out. We would love to have done this earlier if we had been consulted before the ruling.”
But he added ABTA’s ruling failed to clarify a complex issue and had prompted its decision to drop membership. Youtravel.com acts as a principal – taking responsibility for bookings if an agency fails – only for pure accommodation-only sales. Where accommodation is packaged up by the agent with other products, it does not.
“There are many cases where agents package up our product or mark it up on price and make themselves the principal, and we are not responsible,” he said.
In those cases, the bed bank does not accept ABTA’s ruling that it should take responsibility if the agent collapses, said Nichols.
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