ABTA will not review its vetting process despite revoking the membership of a new agent in Northern Ireland after a glut of customer complaints sparked a police inquiry.

La Mon Travel in County Down joined ABTA in January and had its membership cancelled just two weeks later. Local police are investigating the agency after some customers claimed it failed to pay their holiday suppliers.

Other customers said they were left stranded at airports or had money taken from their bank accounts without authorisation.

It is thought hundreds of clients were caught out, including a honeymoon couple who were stranded in New York because their cruise, flights and hotels were not paid for by the agency.

ABTA admitted it allowed agency owner Kathy Ward to join the association despite being aware that she had a previous conviction for misappropriation of funds.

A spokesman said: “The offence was made known to our membership committee but we didn’t think it sufficient to refuse her membership. “We set out stringent stipulations which she fulfilled. As soon as we became aware of wrongdoings, she had her membership terminated.”

The spokesman added: “There are no plans to review the procedures of the membership committee. No admission vetting can insure against all future actions of a member and we are very disappointed that we have had to terminate the membership.”

Police have searched the business and Ward’s home as well as interviewing clients. A spokesman from Down-patrick Police said investigations were ongoing.

“We would advise members of the public that we can only take a record of their complaint and investigate it,” he said.
“We cannot guarantee any refunds from this business.”

ABTA said bookings made during the two weeks of membership would be honoured and tour operators would honour bookings made outside that period.

Knock Travel owner Doreen McKenzie said: “ABTA’s good name should not be undone by this one bad example.”

No one at La Mon Travel was available for comment.