Abta has insisted it is “not here to pass judgements on members’ business models”, after InteleTravel UK was granted membership of the association.
The US-based homeworking agency officially joined today (March 20) after “an extensive two-year process” during which it had to prove compliance with industry regulations, including training of its members around financial protection.
The decision has been greeted by a swell of negative online reaction from agents and followed some concerns around its practices last year, after an InteleTravel UK member offered to sell an unprotected dynamically packaged holiday during a TTG investigation.
Speaking to TTG this morning, John de Vial, Abta’s director of financial protection and financial services, said he considered InteleTravel UK as “just another member”.
“Ultimately it is up to travel suppliers if they choose to work with them and customers to choose if they want to book,” he said.
“It is Abta’s job to represent the whole industry and business models of different kinds. They have met our criteria for compliance and so membership has been granted.”
De Vial said although “none of us like to see those types of comments [referring to a swathe of social media posts this morning, March 20] many people have been saying to us if a new type of model is coming into the UK industry they would want it to be fully-compliant and a part of Abta. These voices have been far less vocal it seems.”
The CAA confirmed its consumer enforcement team was looking into InteleTravel UK in December after an agent belonging to the firm offered to book a dynamically packaged holiday without Atol protection as part of a TTG probe.
“They [InteleTravel UK] have followed up with the individual agents involved and acknowledged there have been mistakes made,” de Vial said.
The US arm of InteleTravel originally applied to join Abta in 2017, with de Vial explaining why the process took as long as it did.
“Did we have concerns at the time? Yes, of course we did, and that’s why the application did not progress,” he said.
“The US is a very different market to the UK, especially in terms of the regulatory landscape, but they have worked hard to ensure the company is following our guidelines.”
During its application period, InteleTravel founded its own UK-based operation, InteleTravel UK, and enlisted travel industry law and accountancy firms to help it become compliant to Abta’s standards.
“It is now a totally refreshed company,” de Vial explained. “We told them what they needed to do and they’ve done it to meet our requirements.”
InteleTravel UK said in a statement that it “greatly respects the rigorous application process carried out by Abta which has enabled the US parent group to reorganise every facet of InteleTravel that touches UK travel consumers and the industry in order to meet UK regulatory requirements”.
“This will ensure that UK travellers and the reputation of our UK travel agents are properly cared for and protected,” it said.
InteleTravel UK says it is bonded as a retail travel agent and has met the financial criteria required for UK trading.