Abta hails ‘remarkably resilient’ membership

Abta described its membership numbers as “remarkably resilient” following its July 1 subscription renewal despite pressure on members’ income.

The association confirmed it continues to represent more than 4,300 brands, 928 head office members, 618 managed branch operators and more than 12,000 self-employed homeworkers, agents and sales representatives despite 2% of members departing at the subscription renewal.

Abta head of membership Danny Waine told Travel Weekly: “We had both some members leave and new members join.

“Those who chose to leave made up 2% of our membership and subscription income, representing just 3% of members’ turnover.”

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Abta revised its subscription payments plan for two-thirds of members in June ahead of the renewal in recognition of the financial pressures on businesses.

This allowed those paying up to £3,000 a year in subs to defer payments for the remainder of this year and then pay two 50% instalments in January and April.

The deferred payments plan came after Abta, in April, extended a quarterly subscription payments scheme introduced in January through to April 2022. This followed six months’ free membership introduced near the start of the pandemic.

Waine said: “Long-term market trends, not just the pandemic, explain why the membership numbers change.

“Some groups are consolidating and reorganising, bringing brands together and removing the need for separate Abta memberships.

“Some businesses are moving from being their own operation to managed branches operating under consortia members, reducing the number of head office memberships.

“Sadly, there are some closures and retirements, with the pandemic possibly bringing some of these forward, in addition to company failures.”

Waine added: “The pandemic will have affected some members’ cash flow, their ability to get a bond or renew their insurances, and any one of these may affect the renewal decision.”

But he said: “Considering the impact of the pandemic and the wider context of a changing market, Abta’s membership numbers remain remarkably resilient.”

Travel Weekly understands two businesses left Abta to move from bonding to trust arrangements.

A senior industry source told Travel Weekly: “Abta gets several dozen members coming and going in a normal year. It had 29 failures [in 12 months] so the numbers [leaving] are up.

“A category of small specialists have shut down but not necessarily permanently. Some with destination issues have decided to wrap up for now.

“There are operators and retailers who had a way out of a lease and decided to wait to get better terms or a different site when they choose to restart.

“And there are a couple who have not been able to renew bonds so had to move to trust arrangements.”

The source argued: “If ever an event would drive consolidation, it’s this pandemic. But if Abta has 900 members with 90% market share today and in five years it has 500 members with 90% market share, what is the difference?”

A second source told Travel Weekly: “Abta always gets a number of leavers and joiners at this time of year. The level of churn is less than in some previous years, and those going are small in absolute numbers and as a proportion of Abta membership.”

More: Abta to replace single payment system this summer

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Abta study finds ‘ongoing’ public confidence in agents and packages

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