Online travel agency giant On the Beach Group says it is “open to attracting compatible new members” after securing Accredited Body status from the CAA.
The OTA has become the eighth Accredited Body to be licensed by the CAA in the UK. This allows the body’s members to sell Atol-protected holidays without holding their own licence.
Current Accredited Bodies include the major travel agency consortia, as well as Travel Counsellors, Hays Travel and Barrhead Travel.
Paul Meehan, On the Beach’s chief finance officer, said: “Alongside simplifying our licensing and trust structure, this also enables the company to add further businesses to our Accredited Body, and we are open to attracting compatible new members as and when appropriate.”
The move is part of a restructure of On the Beach’s Atol arrangements, which sees Sunshine.co.uk trading under the same licence for the first time since it was acquired by the group.
According to preliminary Atol figures published on the CAA website on Monday (April 1), the joint Atol will allow the two brands to sell packages for up to 1.64 million passengers over the next 12 months.
Previously, On the Beach operated under two separate Atols, with a total of 1.46 million passengers for 2018-19.
Alan Bowen, legal advisor of the Association of Atol Companies, said On the Beach’s move showed it was “clearly looking at bringing other businesses under its umbrella”.
“This may be a way for On the Beach to expand by looking at other firms who can avoid applying for their own Atol,” he added.
On the Beach’s move was revealed as the CAA announced it had so far renewed 688 Atols from 749 applications. Another 61 companies have applied for a new Atol but have not yet had their application renewed, while 48 did not apply for a renewal.
The CAA, which now uses an online renewal system, added that 120 Atol holders had only applied for renewal in the final week of March.
OTA Loveholidays is also thought to have increased its licensable passengers significantly, up from 805,000 in the previous year.
Simon Brodie, director of The Travel Trade Consultancy, said the Atol renewals showed the continuing strong growth of the OTA sector, with firms such as Loveholidays now under the ownership of private equity investors.
“We’ve seen a shift of consumer behaviour to OTAs,” he told TTG. “They seem to be selling and packaging holidays better than some traditional operators – that’s a trend we’ve seen in the last two years.”
The CAA’s Atol search database page is currently offline with a message saying: “This search facility is undergoing maintenance and should be returned to service shortly”.