Abta’s annual Travel Convention will go ahead as planned next month, chief executive Mark Tanzer has confirmed, despite the collapse of Thomas Cook.
Tanzer said the convention in Tokyo over 7-9 October would be the perfect forum to discuss the ramifications for the travel sector of the collapse of Thomas Cook.
“Next week, the annual Abta Travel Convention will be taking place,” said Tanzer.
“This has for many years been the place where the industry comes together to discuss the current business climate, and issues.
“No issue is more pressing than last week’s failure [of Thomas Cook], and I know that delegates at the convention will be very mindful of the anxiety and difficulties being experienced at home.”
Tanzer said the impact of Cook’s failure had been “very harsh”, and was continuing to be “strongly felt” by customers, former employees and suppliers, many of whom are Abta members.
“The greatest pain will be felt by Thomas Cook staff who suddenly find themselves without employment,” said Tanzer.
“It is at times like this the industry really should, and can, pull together to minimise pain caused by a company failure.
“Abta’s LifeLine charity is already in touch with ex-Thomas Cook staff to help provide short-term support for those in need, and I know other travel companies are looking to pick up Thomas Cook staff with their undoubted skills and experience.”
The assurances from Abta come following the announcements that the Hays Travel Independence Group conference in Turkey and Midcounties’ retail managers conference in the Algarve next month had both been cancelled owing to the collapse of Cook.
Reflecting on the collapse of Cook, Tanzer said in an update to members: “Thomas Cook was an original signatory of an open letter inviting agents to join a new association in May 1950.
“Abta’s first chairman, James Maxwell, was a member of the Thomas Cook management, and for its first two decades Abta was run from Thomas Cook’s head office in Mayfair Place.
“Since then, both Abta and Thomas Cook changed a lot but this week our industry is mourning the loss of a founding member of the association.
“There will be much discussion and scrutiny about how and why such an iconic company failed, with the devastating loss of thousands of jobs. For the moment, however, my priority and that of the Abta team is on guiding and supporting members and their customers, and managing and upholding the reputation of our industry.
“The scale and complexity of the business means that the scale and complexity of the process of supporting customers, fulfilling bookings, providing refunds or alternative arrangements, and making claims is unprecedented.
“We’re expecting the volume of claims for Abta-protected package and single element sales alone, covered by Thomas Cook’s bond, to be very significant and are scaling up our claims handling staffing to manage these.
“This is going to be a very difficult time for some of our members and we will do all we can to support you through this.
“This week we’ve been managing an exceptionally high volume of member, customer and media queries and I’ve no doubt this will continue for some weeks.
“Our staff are working around the clock to answer your calls and emails, liaise with the CAA and other important stakeholders and manage media and customer enquiries to ensure accurate guidance and advice is provided to the public.
“I’m confident that whatever lies ahead of us, this toughest of tests will highlight the strength of our great industry in coming together to support each other and members of the travelling public.”