ABTA, the trade association for tour operators and travel agents, has been condemned by a former board member for being too expensive and “irrelevant” to its members.
Speaking to Marketing Week, David Speakman, chairman of travel agency Travel Counsellors, says that the organisation is “dying a slow death” because it no longer benefits travel companies or consumers.
Speakman’s comments come as ABTA launches plans to expand its membership to include airlines and train operators as part of a major recruitment drive.
Previously, airlines have been allowed affiliation status with ABTA, this does not provide consumer protection and means operators can only use part of the ABTA logo.
The membership drive coincides with a relaunch of the group including a new logo and a name change, from the Association of British Travel Agencies to the Travel Association, although it will retain the acronym. It aims to reflect the association’s changing remit.
The move includes a promotional drive to raise awareness of its new membership policy. It will be supported with a marketing campaign and at the group’s annual conference in November.
The company decided to go ahead with the plan following its Articles of Associations review of its rules and regulations in May. ABTA head of policy and communications David Marshall says the process is still in its early stages but the organisation is keen to promote its new remit. “It was felt that ABTA wasn’t reflective of the times so we wanted to modernise it to appeal to our current and potential members,” he says.
ABTA’s membership size has been decreasing in the past few years as travel agencies have dwindled in response to the popularity of independent travel websites. It now has 1,500 members compared with 1,877 in 2000.