Recent changes to ABTA bonding rules to allow online agents to join the organisation have been given a tentative thumbs-up by leading players.
The decision to allow online companies into what has been, until now, an enclosed world at the 55-year-old organisation, has been seen by some as a key indication the industry is finally set to modernise and embrace those helping fuel so much of its growth.
Lastminute.com, which is an ABTA member after its acquisition of the Destination Group and following its purchase by Travelocity last year, has so far decided not to use organisation’s ABTA branding – considered a kite mark for protection – on its site.
Holidays and flights director John Bevan said: “Lastminute is already a member of ABTA and we believe the change in direction is good for the industry as a whole.
“We are now waiting to find out what these changes will mean in real terms and whether they will affect our clients and our business.”
However, Lastminute said the amount of deals it has as a third-party retailer – which requires an ABTA bond – is “in single figures” as a percentage of its business.
Other online travel companies have welcomed the decision to relax the ABTA rules to allow in what were the once the upstarts of the industry. But there is still some way to go for ABTA, which has been leaking members in recent years, before it gains widespread enthusiasm for the move among the online industry.
An Expedia spokesman said: “It is good to see ABTA recognise the growth in the market of those consumers who wish to book all or part of a trip on the Internet – whether for business or leisure.
“Once we have had a chance to review the new membership criteria then we will certainly work with ABTA to establish the best way forward.”