Agents hit back at a suggestion that Sunvil managing director Noel Josephides would not be a good choice for Abta chairman.

Josephides is standing for election as chairman in a contest with fellow board member and All Leisure chairman Roger Allard.

The candidates presented their vision of the chairman’s role to the Abta board on Wednesday, with ballot papers to go out next week. Voting opens on June 6 and will close on June 28.

Worldchoice agent and Abta board member Daniele Broccoli said he nominated Josephides because “we share the same views”.

Broccoli, the director of Britaly Travel, was defeated in the 2009 election for chairman when Josephides supported him.

He said he expects Allard to pick up votes from larger Abta members, who have multiple votes. But he believes Josephides will appeal to rank and file agents. “Let’s have a go with the grass-roots, why not?” he said. “Noel is a real-life operator with seats to sell. He is feeling the recession; he has felt the impact of empty planes and travel agents’ problems. How more hands-on does anybody want?”

Other agents rejected Lowcost Travel Group chief executive Paul Evans’ suggestion, at last week’s Barclays Travel Forum, that Josephides does not represent “the wider view”.

Oliver Broad, chairman of Aito agents, expressed confidence that Josephides would represent all members equally. He said: “It would be a great thing to have someone who can bring operators and agents closer together. This is a perfect opportunity to move Abta into the next generation.”

Kristina Hulme, of Travel by Design in Cheshire, said: “Noel has campaigned for the greater good over many years. In my mind he’s the agents’ champion.”