THE split between ABTA and ARTAC Worldchoice has widened after Newman Street launched a scathing attack on the consortium’s chairman Colin Heal.

The move follows accusations by Heal at the launch of ARTAC’s new bonding scheme that ABTA treated his members with contempt.

Heal said his members could save around £500 per year under the new bonding scheme and attacked ABTA for not giving ARTAC a 100% reduction in Applicable Risk Turnover.

He also claimed ABTA receives commission on payments to its Travel Agent Bond Replacement Scheme and expressed dismay that ARTAC has not been allocated an automatic place on the proposed new ABTA board.

ABTA is to hold urgent talks with the consortium next week in a bid to heal the rift.

Chief executive Ian Reynolds said: “Colin Heal has painted a distorted picture. We resent his claim that we receive commission on TABRS. We don’t. He has made it up. He also claims we should give ARTAC a 100% reduction in Applicable Risk Turnover. We can’t do that as in some cases customers would just not be protected.”

President Steven Freudmann attacked Heal for criticising fines that are imposed by ABTA on agents who break codes of conduct.

“If we do not have any teeth then we may as well pack up and go home,” he said. “We fine agents for issues such as failing to deal with client complaints. We are a regulatory body after all.”

Travel Agents’ Council chairman Stephen Bath said Heal had no right to expect an automatic place on the new board and described claims that he represents 25% of ABTA agents as a “gross and severe distortion.”

“That figure relates to head offices and does not take into account the branches of Lunn Poly or Going Places.

“No one gets an automatic place on the board. Does he think he is better than the chief executive of Thomas Cook or the managing director of the multiples?”

Heal said he stood by his comments.

“This is typical from ABTA,” said Heal. “Its first reaction is to go on the defensive rather than admit any fault.”