Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer has insisted an overseas industry conference still has its place in the annual calendar although the association is looking to organise more smaller events.
He was talking to Travel Weekly at this year’s Abta Travel Convention, which saw a relatively small number of delegates, estimated at between 750 and 800, travel to Palma, Majorca.
However, some estimates of the number who travelled to Palma but did not register were as high as 300. Had these people registered the total number of delegates would have matched recent years.
Tanzer said: “There was old Abta and then there is The Travel Convention. It took a while for people to realise it’s not old Abta.
“I would rather have 750 people here and for all of them to have a good experience than more and for some of them not to enjoy it.
“The content is different now to what it used to be. My sense is the people who came out this week will come next year.
“The event will find its right size but I’m absolutely sure it has a place in the calendar. We do listen to what the industry itself wants to talk about. Look at the line up of speakers, it’s a strong programme.”
Preparations for this year’s conference were hampered by the anti-government uprising in Tunisia, the initial choice of host, and the downturn that has left budgets squeezed.
“Everybody’s feeling the budget constraints, destinations more than most,” he said.
With numbers falling and the event not now focussed on front line travel agents some delegates were questioning what it offers that is different to the annual ITT conference.
However, Tanzer added he thought The Travel Convention embraced a wider audience. “We have the differentiator of having people here who are not just in our part of the travel industry.
“Whether that’s suppliers or airlines, it’s not just us talking to ourselves anymore and we want to encourage that.
“I see ITT as a club and its convention as a get together for members of that club. This is a business event.”
Tanzer revealed he would like to expand the portfolio of events Abta runs having launched an annual half-day conference in London called Travel Matters two years ago.
Ideas are “in development” but initial thoughts are it could run an operational conference looking at aspects of tour operating like crisis management and one on the UK domestic market.