Independent agents have called on Abta to increase board representation for smaller retailers while criticising its subscription fees as “not affordable” for members.
Independent agency group Target (Travel Agent Reform Group Engaged Together) has issued a plea for two new categories on Abta’s board, for retailers with a turnover of up to £2 million and for those with a turnover of £2 million to £5 million.
The current board elects one director to represent agents with retail turnovers of under £20 million and another for more than £20 million.
But Target co-founder Graeme Brett, of Westoe Travel, stressed: “Only 5% of retail members have a turnover above £10 million.”
He called for the board to be democratically elected “to represent all parts of the membership”.
Target co-founder Jill Waite, of Pole Travel, described the board as “top heavy” in its representation of operators, giving agents the impression their views were “not strongly or proportionally represented”.
She added: “We’re not criticising the skills or efforts of any of the board but they all need to be accountable by being elected. There should be a split between agents and operators.”
The board currently numbers 13 but has provision for 14. Of the 13, four are elected and five are co-opted from Abta’s members. A further three are co-opted but do not have to be from membership, which Abta said allowed the association to bring in external expertise such as civil service or political knowledge. The chief executive and chairman automatically have places. Abta said the role of directors was to ensure Abta had the “right strategy” for all members.
Target also expressed its “total dismay” over the decision to increase Abta’s subscription fees for members. At a meeting last December, it asked Abta to reduce fees and review costs.
Subscriptions will rise by an average 8% from July 1, with the increase limited to 4% or less for “about three-quarters” of members, according to Abta, and the minimum rate unchanged.
Brett argued: “This is simply not affordable for many agents, some of whom still have second jobs to support their businesses.”
Abta defended the rise, adding 4% was a cut “in real terms” as it was below inflation. A spokeswoman said: “This is the first increase since 2019 and follows a 50% cut in fees in 2020 in response to the pandemic.”