What is ABTA?

An insight into what, why and who

Most people have heard of ABTA and might recognise the logo but not many people know what it is, what they do and how they operate.  We thought it a good idea to try to give an overview of what ABTA stands for, what it does, what its legal powers are and how they can help customers and businesses.  At The Adventure People we decided not to join ABTA for a few of our own reasons (see below!) but we may change our minds in future.

So, here we go….all about ABTA…

An Overview of ABTA

What does ABTA stand for?

ABTA stands for the Association of British Travel Agents but it is infact made up of travel agents and tour operators.

What do ABTA do?

ABTA has been established for more than 65 years, offering advice and guidance to the travelling public, as well as being one body which encourages the travel industry in supporting high service standards, working with Members on health and safety, and promoting responsible tourism at home and abroad.   ABTA are able to make this commitment by having members abide by the ABTA Code of Conduct, which governs areas such as accurate advertising, fair terms of trading, changes to bookings and managing customer complaints.

How Can ABTA Help Me?

ABTA offer advice on your rights in case anything goes wrong, destination information, mediation with your travel agent or tour operator in the case of a complaint or items around financial protection.  However, ABTA do not offer financial protection to consumers, the financial protection is actually provided by the business you’re booking your products from.  Typically when booking a flight plus accommodation tis is via the ATOL scheme.  If you book a package holiday or flight plus  outside of the UK ABTA cannot help.  See our financial protection page for more information.

Can I get Money Back From ABTA If Things Go Wrong?

No.  ABTA can help point you in the fight direction but cannot issue any refunds.

What If A Company Isn’t A Member of ABTA?

There are an awful lot of travel companies which are not ABTA members yet offer exceptional service, financial protection, high customer service standards and everything a customer would expect.  ABTA is just one body of many in the UK and membership is not compulsory, it is voluntary and each business pays a membership fee to join.

Some companies you may have heard of or used which are not ABTA members include:  AirBnB, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Easyjet, BA HolidaysRyanair, HomeAway, Audley Travel, World Expeditions, Alpaca Expeditions, Quark Expeditions we could go on!

Is It Safe to book with a company that isn’t with ABTA?

ABTA doesn’t guarantee safety.  There are an awful lot of companies which are not ABTA members which millions of people use and it’s worth remembering ABTA doesn’t guarantee anything to a customers apart from it’s members abiding to the ABTA Code of Conduct.  We should note though that any company can adhere to those standards or indeed higher standards if it wishes, it doesn’t need to be a member of ABTA to do so and we like to think all businesses strive to be the best they can be for customers regardless of a code of conduct.  It’s also wort noting that of the travel company failures in recent years many were ABTA members including All Leisure group, Gold Medal, XL Holidays.  The most robust form of industry protection for customers today is the ATOL scheme ran by the CAA but again, this only applies to package or flight plus holidays.  See our financial protection page for more information.

Is ABTA and ATOL the same thing?

No.  ABTA is a travel trade membership group which travel agents and tour operators can chose to apply to become members.  ATOL is a legally bound regulatory compliance item managed by the Civil Aviation Authority, the two are very separate.  See our page on ATOL for more information.

Why do companies join ABTA?

Without asking each company we’re unsure!  However, from our experience most join as they can they state they are members of ABTA which they believe gives customers more confidence and are more likely to make bookings with them.  This is an entirely subjective opinion of course!

Is The Adventure People A Member of ABTA?

No, we chose not to be and here are our reasons:

  1. Given so many successful companies who operate in the travel industry are not ABTA members we didn’t feel becoming a member was going to add any extra validity to The Adventure People.
  2. We thought the body was traditional in it’s outlook.  It’s been rather critical of a number of newer travel companies (like AirBnB for example) and rather than embracing new entrants, business models and indeed people, the board at ABTA have taken a defensive position and are trying to lobby for more protection for their members.  We believe this is the wrong approach and ABTA should reconsider its position.
  3. ABTA is mainly made up of very traditional tour operators and travel agents.  We see ourselves as being quite modern and so being a member of a very tradition organisation didn’t really feel right.
  4. We can adhere to and indeed surpass ABTA’s code of conduct without being a member.
  5. There is a cost to joining ABTA and if we joined we’d have to make that money back somehow either through increasing prices (bad) or cutting costs but we’re a lean business any way and so that also didn’t fit well with us.
  6. We can offer financial protection in other ways.  See our financial protection page for more detail.
  7. Finally, we felt ABTA might take up too much time.  When making our decision whether to join or not we corresponded with ABTA and it transpired that we’d have numerous meetings per year, they wanted access to our business reports and some influence over our Facebook page and more.  We felt this was too much for a lean and agile business.

We may change our minds in future as policies change and time goes by but we shall see.

We hope this page was helpful.

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