John de Vial, Abta head of financial protection

Last week, following the launch of the Department for Transport’s Atol Regulations, Abta was finally able to publish further details of its new scheme that will help smaller Members to comply with the new regulations: the “Abta-Atol Joint Administration Scheme”.

As you would expect, the reforms have generated debate about what the scope of consumer financial protection should look like and what the role of the Atol “badge” is versus the Abta badge. 

First, it is important to remember that Atol only protects flight-based holidays; the holiday market today is much more sophisticated than this, whether that is cruises, coach or train trips and land packages, and Abta remains the UK’s biggest approved body for non-licensable packages.

Abta also offers protection between Members, allowing principals to trade with a wide range of retailers with confidence.

Secondly, the Joint Administration Scheme is a good example of the vital role that Abta can play in helping to support Members’ businesses in a way that helps save them time and money, while giving them the flexibility to run their business in the way they want.

Under the terms of the scheme, Abta will not restrict holiday products sold by members, and we will not add charges or compulsory fees for supplier failure insurance to Members’ booking arrangements.

Had Abta chosen to become an Accredited Body, we would have been compelled to do this, because the whole nature of the commercial relationship we have with our Members would have changed.

The other benefit of flexibility is that it enables us to act as a broad, representative voice for the travel industry.

It is precisely because we represent a broad range of travel businesses – high street travel agents, online travel agents, tour operators large and small – that Abta is able to do much more than just provide financial protection.

It is why our Code of Conduct and Arbitration scheme are looked to by other industries as powerful examples of effective self-regulation.

It enables us to lead the way in helping the industry to improve standards in health and safety and sustainable tourism.

It is why we command such a high level of awareness and authority among both consumers and in Government.

Last year Abta’s brand recognition among consumers rose by 8% to 79%, recognition that directly helps our members build confidence with their customers.

If Abta represented a narrow range of commercial interests, our ability to deliver on such a significant range of issues would be severely diminished.

And that is why the Abta badge stands for so much more than financial protection and remains a powerful and never more relevant reassurance to consumers to book with confidence with an Abta member.