The potential for the election of Abta’s new chairman to drive divisions within the association came to the fore at this week’s Barclays Travel Forum.
The event heard from online agent and supplier Paul Evans, chief executive of Lowcost Travel Group, who predicted dire consequences if his favoured candidate loses.
Evans, who has previously threatened to quit Abta, spared none of his characteristic outspokenness.
“If anyone votes for Noel [Josephides], will the last person to leave turn the lights off at Abta,” he said.
Sunvil managing director and Aito council member Josephides dismissed suggestions he would represent only members with traditional business models if elected chairman.
He has also said his views are “almost identical” to those of rival contender Roger Allard, chairman of All Leisure Group.
Evans said: “I like Noel very much personally; I respect him for trying to defend his particular part of the market. But he does not reflect the wider view.
“When you carry 20,000 passengers a year you cannot represent the views of people who are carrying two million.”
Evans is a founding member of the Association of Travel Agents (Ata), formed by a group of Abta’s online members who are unhappy about its stance on reform of package travel rules.
This has prompted speculation about a potential split within Abta, although this was played down at the Barclays forum.
Steve Endacott, chief executive of On Holiday Group, said: “Ata is not a challenge to Abta. Abta is a strong body and we are not going to give it up to the tour operators.”
Josephides, a critic of Ata’s stance, is expected to appeal to Abta’s grass-roots membership.
Responding on Twitter to Evans’ comments, Oliver Broad, chairman of Aito Specialist Travel Agents, said Josephides’ work at the association had benefited the industry as a whole over five years.
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