Abta insists it has no problem with members lobbying Brussels on their own behalf and says last week’s Travel Convention saw “a re-engagement” between online travel agents (OTAs) and the association.
Chairman John McEwan (pictured) said: “Abta recognises there are strong feelings among the OTAs, but there is also recognition that Abta plays a role for all its members.”
The Travel Convention in Turkey saw leading OTAs threaten to break from Abta to lobby the European Commission against extending the Package Travel Directive.
On Holiday Group chief executive Steve Endacott accused Abta of “lobbying for us all to be within the Directive”. Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer denied that, saying: “It’s critical the EC allows agents to carry on as agents.”
The Commission is due to unveil proposals for a revised Directive next March amid expectations it will extend the package travel rules to Flight-Plus sales.
McEwan told Travel Weekly: “We had an open debate, a healthy and constructive debate, and there was a re-engagement between the OTAs and Abta.”
On speculation that some OTAs are considering setting up a group within Abta, McEwan said: “I don’t think it’s a constitutional matter. It is about how well Abta can help the OTAs lobby.
“There is discussion about whether the OTAs want to put their case direct to the Commission. We would be supportive of that. Abta would help them put their case to Brussels.”
He added: “There will be a continuing dialogue, though not necessarily in the public domain.
“We must work to give the OTAs as much comfort as possible that what comes down from Brussels does not adversely affect their business models. We’ll see what else we need to do. We’re keen to develop the debate with the OTAs.”
In a statement this week Abta said: “The position we’ve developed on the Package Travel Directive represents the views put to us by Abta members – agents and operators – following a consultation.
“There are always issues on which members have differing commercial interests and objectives. Where members, in this case OTAs, hold positions they wish to lobby for they should be free to do so.”
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