THE Association of Independent Tour Operators has been split on the future role of the organisation.

A dozen operators, unhappy at the direction AITO is heading, have held a secret meeting where talk of a breakaway association was discussed.

In a letter to chairman Paul Chandler, leaked to Travel Weekly, VFB managing director Mike Bruce-Mitford, a former AITOchairman, said the threat of a breakaway group was “a serious proposal”.

Bruce-Mitford said: “A meeting was held where the issue of a breakaway association was raised. Myself, and others, urged against that and the threat has subsided.”

The root of the split appears to be whether the association should be a campaigning trade body – which is favoured by Chandler – or a club looking purely after the interests of independent operators. The 12 operators are believed to support the latter.

Some fear it could lead to the inclusion in AITO of operators aligned with major players. There are also concerns at the way AITO is being run.

A representative from the disaffected operators has also been invited to outline their grievances to the AITO Council on March 16. Chandler said: “I am aware some members are unhappy. There are elections coming up where people can stand if they want to see change. At our next meeting I intend to hold a debate where everyone can air their views.”