Abta has hit back strongly at a claim it has lobbied in Europe "to make agents tour operators", with chief executive Mark Tanzer (pictured) describing this as "a travesty of Abta's position".
The allegation was made by Travel Network Group managing director Gary Lewis in a letter to Worldchoice members, who form part of the group.
In the letter, released yesterday, Lewis argued in favour of Abta members electing All Leisure Group chairman Roger Allard as chairman rather than Sunvil managing director Noel Josephides.
Lewis wrote: "Roger has acknowledged there is a split among Abta tour operators and travel agents on the most important issue for agents.
“Lobbying by Abta is to make agents tour operators if the Package Travel Directive is implemented from Europe in 2014-2015 . . . Worldchoice agents will not benefit from Abta's current position and Roger would look to change this."
The Abta chief executive responded by insisting: "This is a travesty of Abta’s position on the Package Travel Directive (PTD).
"Far from making agents into tour operators, Abta is campaigning to keep retailers of packages outside the scope of the new directive."
Tanzer said: "Where an organiser is selling linked arrangements as an agent, Abta’s members believe these should offer similar protections to those that customers have when they buy a package.
"This does not mean the organiser becomes a tour operator or principal. We continue to fight for their agency status to be preserved."
Abta also disputed Lewis's claim to represent one quarter of the Abta vote. In the letter, he wrote: "As we represent 25% of the entire vote, we clearly have an influence on the outcome."
An Abta spokeswoman said: "Gary's claim that Worldchoice represents 25% of members is wrong. It's 14%."
The claim that "Roger would look to change" Abta's position is contentious. In his election address, published by Abta Today, Allard makes a single reference to the Directive and does not mention the association's lobbying position.
His address merely states: "Very soon we will have to evaluate a European package directive, so this will probably mean more change."
However, speaking at the ITT conference in Abu Dhabi this week, Allard told Travel Weekly: "It is unlikely we will have a vast say in the Package Travel Directive."
The Department for Transport's Call for Evidence on reform of Atol funding, published at the end of May, states that changes to the Directive "are unlikely to be implemented in UK law until 2016 at the earliest".
The Travel Network Group, which includes Travel Trust Association members who sit outside Abta, has previously nursed ambitions to establish a rival organisation to Abta.
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