Abta has announced a deferral of subscription fees until January for its smallest member businesses to help companies “facing particular difficulties”.
Members whose subscription costs is £3,000 or less per year – around two thirds of members - will now be able to make two equal payments in January and April 2022, rather than four payments across the year.
In April the association created a quarterly subscription instalment plan for the 2021-2022 membership year, with payments in July and October 2021 and January and April 2022.
Abta said it was hoped the change would allow time for firms to build their cash flow “closer to pre-pandemic levels”, adding “the intention is to return to one single annual payment from July next year”.
The move has been made due following feedback with Abta members, its board and head office team and brought it due to “little prospect of a meaningful return for international travel in the immediate future” and the “extremely worrying” financial situation facing smaller travel businesses.
In an update issued on Thursday (24 June), Abta explained that for members whose annual subscription fees exceed £3,000, the quarterly installment plan would remain in place.
Abta said that “as a not-for-profit organisation and having reduced subscriptions by a total of over £3 million in 2020-2021” it was unable reduce membership fees this year “even with a continuing programme of cuts to our discretionary costs”.
The decision to offer a deferral on fees was welcomed by agent campaign group Target (Travel Agent Reform Group Engaged Together) but the group expressed its disappointment subscription fees had not been lowered.
Co-founder Jill Waite, owner of Pole Travel, said: “We have seen other trade bodies reducing their overheads and wage bill and Abta needs to do the same and pass the savings on to their members who simply cannot afford the current fees.
Fellow co-founder, Westoe Travel boss Graeme Brett, added: “We welcome the decision to defer the payment date to January but unless the travel industry recovers by then, members will still be unable to pay.
“They will face payments in January and April and then next years renewal in July. Abta needs to use the six months to drastically reduce their overheads and wage bill to reduce the amount due in January.
Waite said Target was now asking “all other consortia to follow Abta’s example” and defer payments and reduce fees.
“We recognise that it is not only smaller members who have been experiencing financial difficulties and, in an ideal world, we would offer this further deferral to more members,” Abta said in its statement.
“While the industry has had much reduced activity in the past year, Abta has seen a higher demand than ever for its services, particularly around the areas of financial protection, claims, providing information and guidance to Abta members and the public, public affairs and working with destinations on pandemic impacts and mitigations.
“This activity needs to be funded, primarily via subscriptions. Although Abta is unable to discount subscription levels overall, it is hoped that the quarterly payments for many members, and the additional payment deferral for smaller ones, will best support members while not compromising on the services that they tell us they value the most.”