Accommodation-only website Somewhere2stay.com managing director Stuart Jackson has questioned the worth of trade association ABTA if its own travel agent members do not comply with the new bed bank liability ruling.
On the eve of the association’s Travel Convention in Barcelona, Jackson issued an ultimatum to ABTA agents to comply with last Friday’s bed bank ruling by only booking ABTA bed banks. Somewhere2stay.com, part of the Monarch Travel Group, is an ABTA bed bank member.
Jackson said that if travel agents continued to book with non-ABTA bed banks following Friday’s vote, it would call into question the value of the association.
“There is no point being in ABTA if it is making rules, and members are ignoring them. In that case, why are we wasting our time? Why don’t we disband ABTA? What does ABTA stand for?” he asked.
Members could either follow ABTA’s proposals or resign, he added. “Either we all resign and go our own way, or we comply and try to operate that way. Agents’ businesses will not be hurt if they work only with ABTA bed banks; they will not lose out on price but customers will gain security.”
His remarks came as ABTA bed banks youtravel.com and Thomas Cook-owned Med Hotels and hotels4u.com admitted they were reviewing whether to stay members of the association.ABTA’s proposal was passed with a vote of 82% in favour, which means ABTA bed banks that sell through ABTA travel agencies must take responsibility if the agency fails. Bed banks must honour the customer’s booking in the event of the agency’s failure, even if it has not been paid the client’s money by the agency. It does not apply to suppliers that act as principal.
The proposal aims to improve financial protection for consumers booking through ABTA bed banks via their agent.
Jackson said ABTA bed banks should see an increase in business and non-ABTA bed banks should see a decrease. “As an ABTA member, I should see a large growth in business this week and non-ABTA bed banks should be scrambling for business. ABTA retailers voted for this proposal, therefore they should work only with ABTA bed banks.
“One assumes they will all book with ABTA bed banks because that is what they asked for; why vote for something if you have no intention of following it through?”
Somewhere2stay.com, which is part of the Monarch Travel Group,l will be asking its commercial retail partners whether they will now work only with ABTA bed banks or continue to sell product of non-members, he said.
Jackson also questioned how many ABTA retailers understood the ruling. “Do they understand the ramifications and their responsibility? The pressure is on ABTA retailers; it’s not about the supplier.”
He added that if retailers did not respond to the ruling, somewhere2stay.com could quit. “Next week I may pull out of ABTA,” he said.
Similarly, youtravel.com sales and marketing director Paul Riches said the proposal would make it very difficult for the bed bank to stay in ABTA. “On the basis that this ruling comes in imminently, we will make our decision imminently,” he added.
Thomas Cook said the issue was likely to come up at its next board meeting later this month.