After serving on the Abta board of directors for the last seven years, I was delighted to take on the role of chair in June. Since then the clock has certainly not stood still, and in these changing times one constant is the role of Abta in providing the support this great industry needs. But then this has always been the case.
I was honoured and proud to continue to serve the organisation knowing firsthand what an important and positive impact it has as the voice of the industry, whilst supporting its members and helping customers feel confident in travelling. Abta has made considerable progress over the years, and I am determined to continue to play my part in making sure that its influence continues to be a force for good for us all.
I have always been aware of the diversity of its membership. The association includes niche and large-scale tour operators; independent high street agents; OTAs; and specialist travel agents. It’s this mix that makes us stronger and adds weight to what we say; we are uniquely placed to represent them all.
To ensure that voices are heard and needs are met, everyone needs to engage, and there are many ways to do this, whether via Abta’s committee structure or on a daily basis in asking for advice.
Abta also offers regular forums for members through regional meetings and consults directly on regulatory issues such as the recent Airline Insolvency Review and Environmental Audit Committee consultation. The very positive response to Abta’s growing events programme shows the appetite our members have to continue to learn and the need to understand the changing marketplace.
Whilst I have been a member of the board we have dealt with numerous issues and challenges: political, regulatory, environmental and those of health, safety and security.
On Brexit, the country is in uncharted waters. Abta has three main goals: to provide support and guidance to members to in their contingency preparations; to lobby the EU and UK decision-makers on the needs of our industry; and to provide accurate information to consumers to help them to travel with confidence. It’s this work, for me, which deserves more exposure through membership to create a wider understanding of the association’s activities.
Thinking about this first column since I took the chair, this exciting industry has always evolved. We have seen different business models emerge, from homesharing sites to direct-to-consumer sites and personal travel agents. New models are now represented in the industry, including social influencers and easier entry points for less experienced home-based agents.
Each of these brings a different perspective. Abta’s membership has kept up with this change, which allows us to be best placed to provide support, advice and expertise, as well as a truly representative voice.
In changing times Abta has always been relied upon but then change is nothing new, and Abta will remain well positioned to deal with it.