The Travel Network Group managing director Gary Lewis has become the latest high profile industry boss to publicly back Roger Allard for the Abta chairman role.
Allard, chairman of All Leisure Group, is up against Sunvil managing director Noel Josephides and voting among Abta members opens this week.
In a letter sent to the Worldchoice members which form the part of TNG’s group that have association membership, Lewis said: "Historically Worldchoice members have always been very vocal on their views on such elections and, as we represent 25% of the entire vote, we clearly have an influence on the outcome.
"Many of you have spoken to me and questioned the relevance of Abta in today's market and the value they bring to your business.
“Therefore, I thought it would help if you understand my views for an outcome from this election that I believe will support Worldchoice members and independent travel agents in the future.
"In Roger Allard and Noel Josephides we have two very strong candidates. However, whilst both have extensive travel experience, they are essentially both tour operators, and it is unfortunate that there is not a runner who truly represents the independent travel agency sector."
Lewis has met and spoken to both candidates and has discussed their views.
He continued: "For me, personally, I believe that Roger will be the better candidate. I sit with Roger on the CAA's ATIPAC committee; he has an expert's grasp of the regulatory changes required for our future.
"Roger has also acknowledged there is a split amongst Abta tour operators and travel agents on the most important issue for agents.
“The package travel directive will have a negative impact on travel agents, it is a European directive that will ignore the reality of where customers are booking and try and burden travel agents with tour operator responsibilities. Both Roger and Noel share similar views on a lot but on this one issue they differ.
"High street and online travel agents have the financial guarantees of Atol cover through flight plus, but they are not tour operators.
“The lobbying by Abta is to make agents tour operators, if the Package Travel Directive is implemented from Europe in 2014/2015. Together with the Association of Independent Travel Agents I have been lobbying to keep the agency status.
"Quite simply Roger supports this position, whereas Noel doesn't and Worldchoice agents will not benefit from Abta's current position and Roger would look to change this. On this basis, Roger has my vote."
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