ABTA faces legal challenge over membership fees

By Lisa James
23/11/2022
Home » ABTA faces legal challenge over membership fees

ABTA should apologise to members and refund ‘unjustified’ fees, claims the boss of Attraction Tickets, which has left the association.

Attraction Tickets founder and Chief Executive Oliver Brendon says the company has left in protest at unfair membership fees and high salaries paid to ABTA directors.

He’s also prepared to issue a legal challenge to the association over its 2021 membership policy, in which membership fees were payable based on 2019 revenue, rather than 2020.

He told Travel Gossip he’s not committed to a legal challenge at this stage but wanted to hear from other members that might also be interested.

As a result of the impact of COVID on trading, ABTA agreed to halve membership fees for 2020, but not for 2021.

Oliver, whose company operates the DoSomethingDifferent.com and Attraction Tickets brands, claims the ABTA logo makes no difference to sales – and he’s happy to share his findings with other companies to prove this.

Oliver said: “We wanted to leave from the moment ABTA based 2021 membership fees on 2019 revenue rather than 2020 revenue.  They changed the rules to suit their cost base and inflated salaries.

“What is even more baffling about ABTA’s approach to 2021 membership fees is that ABTA sold its former Newman Street head office in October 2021 for over £18m. What has happened to these monies?

“Rather than use them for the benefit of the membership they seem to have been stockpiled to pay future inflated salaries.”

Attraction Tickets has moved to the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT), a decision Oliver said was not an easy one.

“We have enough to do rebuilding the business after COVID,” he explained. 

“Moving regulatory bodies, undoing one set of bonds and replacing them with another takes time and effort which we could do without.”

He believes leaving ABTA will not affect sales.

 “We test all changes to our b2c website to assess the impact on conversion rates. 

“The impact of a) showing the ABTA logo through the booking flow (eg ticket pages /basket /checkout) and b) not showing the ABTA logo through the booking flow was neutral. 

“I can share the precise data and test results if people want to see them.”

An ABTA spokesperson said: “It is always regrettable when a member chooses to resign their membership of ABTA and we will always keep the door open to companies which leave the Association.

“Companies who resign from membership no longer benefit from the many services our members tell ABTA they value, as well as the widespread recognition and respect that the travelling public has for the ABTA logo, with our research showing 73% of people are more likely to book with an ABTA member than a non-member.”

ABTA added it conducts independent market research up to four times a year on value and recognition of the ABTA brand and achieves consistently positive results. It added members also value the ABTA brand.

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