Sunvil managing director Noel Josephides has insisted he will do "whatever is best for the industry" after being confirmed as one of two candidates for chairman of Abta yesterday.
Josephides and All Leisure Group executive chairman Roger Allard will contest the role of Abta chairman after John McEwan stood down last week.
Allard had been expected to stand after being appointed to the association's board in February.
The All Leisure chief, who is seen as likely to win support from online travel agents (OTAs) as well as more traditional Abta members, said: “I've been asked to stand. I think I can offer something to the industry.”
However, Josephides dismissed suggestions he would represent only members with a traditional business model.
Josephides told Travel Weekly: “I will work toward a level playing field, but as chairman I would not criticise the business model of another member as long as it’s legal.
"I have my views, but the chair is subject to the board. I would do whatever is best for the industry and its clients.”
Referring to the Association of Travel Agents, formed late last year by a group of Abta members including leading OTAs, Josephides said: “There will be people who are against me, but I wasn’t chairman when some members decided to form their own association.”
He added: “Roger’s views and mine are almost identical but our companies are obviously very different. I’m probably more in contact with the grass roots of the industry on a day-to-day basis. But once in the chair you have to work with the industry as a whole.”
He said: "A lot of members don't appreciate Abta. They say Abta is a waste of time. Well it isn't. They don't understand how much work is being done.
"Belonging to this association is going to safeguard a lot of people's businesses and a lot of people's jobs. The financial security, the respectability, everything that goes with Abta is going to be increasingly important."
Allard told Travel Weekly ahead of yesterday's announcement: “It's important an Abta chairman has the experience to look at the broad picture, understand the issues and listen to members.
“I’ve been both an agent and a tour operator and feel I understand retail and business travel. I understand the proposed changes to the Atol regulations and feel strongly about it.”
The candidates, each nominated and seconded by board members, will appear before the board later this month to be questioned on how they see the role.
The election is due to be held in June and the result announced in early July.
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