ABTA, the Travel Association is the leading travel trade association in the UK and has undertaken some radical changes over the past year and a half to ensure that it is fit for purpose and provides the best possible service for its Members and their customers.
In July 2008, ABTA merged with the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO). To accommodate FTO staff, save costs and promote more efficient work practices, ABTA moved from Newman Street in the West End to Park Street near London Bridge.
Following the move, Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive restructured the organisation, making cuts where necessary and building up teams to reflect the strategic focus. Two new roles in the Senior Management team were created – one to co-ordinate and drive ABTA’s important lobbying role and the other to head up the newly created Destination Strategy and Services department, which had evolved from the FTO team.
Luke Pollard, will join ABTA at the end of November as Head of Public Affairs and Nikki White joined ABTA in October as Head of Destination Strategy and Services which takes the lead on responsible tourism, crisis management and health and safety.
Representing over 5,000 travel agents and tour operators, ABTA’s symbol stands for choice, value, and high levels of service. In times of adversity, consumers look for trust and security, and as a result ABTA is attracting more new members than ever. Recent recruits have included Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Superbreak Mini-Holidays Ltd. ABTA staff collectively have tremendous expertise in travel law, consumer advice, media relations, accountancy, sustainable tourism and health and safety.
ABTA maintains standards in the industry with its comprehensive Code of Conduct, while the FTO’s Preferred Code of Practice can be used to measure the achievements of hoteliers and suppliers in destinations. Consumers are also reassured by the access they can get to a consumer department and an independent arbitration service run by the IDRS (Independent Dispute Resolution Service).
ABTA is at the heart of the financial protection debate as a leading supplier of financial protection in the industry, while Members can make use of the free legal advice and assistance from the financial services team.
Members can also gain assistance from the Destination Services team for crisis management advice, sign up to ABTA Travelbuddy to communicate better with customers, while the PR team provides a voice for the industry and offers assistance on any media-related, travel industry issues.
This year, ABTA has also decided to step up its commitment to education, and Vicki Wolf, now Professional Development Manager has been asked by the ABTA Board to work on how best to co-ordinate an overall training strategy for the industry.
Despite the recession, sustainability is still high on the political and business agenda. Following the merger between ABTA and FTO, ABTA has strengthened its sustainability commitment and now has dedicated staff working on projects and strategies within the Destination Strategy and Services department.
No single business, however large or influential, can do much alone, which is why ABTA and FTO have worked to progress sustainability in the industry in order to provide Members with education and practical tools to use.
One of these tools is the carbon offsetting scheme Reduce My Footprint, www.reducemyfootprint.travel, while this year, we will be concentrating on the Travelife Sustainability System, which will have a major presence at WTM, taking up half of the ABTA stand. ABTA’s Chris Thompson developed this innovative auditing system to measure sustainable practices amongst hotels and other suppliers.