Abta has admitted it will have to “step up its efforts to inform and educate” every one of its members after the HotelConnect failure left hundreds of agents out of pocket.

The bed bank failed on June 28 with about 6,000 trade bookings. Consumers who booked with the bed bank direct were protected, but agents not covered by supplier failure insurance had to fund replacement holidays themselves despite the Abta logo appearing on the agent section of the site.

The association has since come under fire from members and non-members for failing to make it clear that agent bookings were not protected.

Travel Counsellors chairman David Speakman said the protection issue was a “ticking time-bomb for Abta”.

He said: “It beggars belief that Abta agents’ customers were not protected but a customer booking direct with a bed bank member was.”

Abta has responded to the backlash by pledging to increase its efforts to make sure agents understand the situation.

A spokeswoman said: “We will step up our efforts to inform and educate all our members about just how important it is to check the terms and conditions when they are buying and selling travel, particularly with an accommodation-only supplier like a bed bank.

“We will do this by providing guidance notes online and pushing them out via the Abta Today newsletter and at Council of Regions meetings.”

However, she said agents must take responsibility for their business relationships. 

“We can’t do this on our own. If you are a travel business, it is essential that you understand both your and your trade partners’ contractual status.”

She said Abta had also raised concerns with the Office of Fair Trading about consistency around protection messages generally. The CAA has set up a working party to look at the issue.