Abta chief hits back after Lowcost attack

Abta chief hits back after Lowcost attack

Abta has hit back at an attack on its impartiality and criticism of bonding arrangements by Lowcost Travel Group chief executive Paul Evans, who questioned what the association stands for last week.

Association chief executive Mark Tanzer said it was "inconceivable" Abta would stop bonding members. Tanzer said: "Bonding and protection of pipeline money mean agents aren't saddled with all kinds of credit controls.

"Pipeline protection [between agents and principals] stops companies cancelling bookings if an agency failure would make them bust. It is protection for members, but it also benefits consumers."

He added: "To get out of bonding would be a catastrophe. Members need bonding. It's required by law and it's industry practice.

EC regulations require that if you sell any kind of package you demonstrate protection is in place. The fact we have bonds for 378 out of 400 tour operators offering non-licensable packages suggests we give value for money.

"It would be a real challenge to members if we said we're not doing bonding. It is inconceivable. The CAA wants the industry to take back the consumer protection system. I don't know how the industry would operate if you took us out."

Tanzer rejected the suggestion that a supplier could withhold a service from a consumer if not paid by an agent, saying: "If an agent goes bust, a principal still has to carry the customer."

He added: "We protect consumers through our code of conduct and our arbitration scheme. That is consumer protection. The evidence is consumers feel warmly disposed to Abta. It is part of why members don't want to leave.

"We are impartial. We represent a cross section of the industry and don't bat for any section. The big brands are members because they see the advantages. We don't support one business model over another provided it is legal."

The Abta membership renewal deadline fell on July 1 this year and Tanzer said: "We're confident about the level of renewal."

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