Two candidates vying for one position on Abta’s board have set out pledges to represent small businesses in the sector.
Westoe Travel director Graeme Brett, who has a domestic operator but is best known for his agency, is contesting the seat currently held by Jamie Gardiner, founder of direct-sell operator Diverse World.
Brett’s decision to throw his hat into the ring to represent principals with turnover of less than £50 million has forced a ballot of operator members, which closes today (August 17).
In Brett’s election pledge to members he stressed he would seek to ensure all small travel businesses, agents as well as operators, were supported by Abta.
Brett has 34 years’ experience running Westoe Travel in South Shields and three years of owning domestic operator Rail Adventures, set up during Covid following Super Break’s demise.
He has been northeast regional chair for Abta’s Council of Regions for three years and is co-founder of independent agent action group Target.
I think it would be beneficial to have both sides represented on the board, rather than companies that are just operators, to represent smaller members, both operators and agents
He told Travel Weekly he had been encouraged to apply for election to the board to “give the point of view from smaller businesses” and would be able to represent “both sides of the fence” as an operator and agent.
“I think it would be beneficial to have both sides represented on the board, rather than companies that are just operators, to represent smaller members, both operators and agents,” he said.
In his election statement he said: “If elected I will aim to ensure that all sections of the membership can play a full role and receive the support that their businesses need to prosper… I will seek to ensure that the issues facing all sectors of the travel industry are addressed.
“Above all I will seek to ensure Abta maintains and extends its position as the most recognised travel brand”
Gardiner, who has been on Abta’s board since 2017 and has 20 years’ experience working exclusively as an operator, said more could be done to support operators and ensure their voices were heard.
Abta is surely entering a period of change and it really is crucial that we are properly represented to influence that change
In his election statement he said: “We (Diverse World) suffered and struggled through Covid, and we continue to balance the daily pressures that tour operators are faced with today.
“I understand the need for us to have a strong collective voice in this industry, and have discussed this with many of you.
“I am a keen advocate of the work that Abta does and the support it gives to members, but I know that much more could be done to support tour operators and for our voices to be listened to.
He added: “Abta is surely entering a period of change and it really is crucial that we are properly represented to influence that change.”
The ballot follows the re-election of Britaly Travel director Daniele Broccoli uncontested to the board to represent members with a turnover of less than £20 million.
A vacancy on the board for a member to represent principal businesses with a turnover of more than £50 million has not attracted any nominations.
An Abta spokesman said: “Representatives of a number of tour operators within that category are on the board of directors. The specific vacancy has arisen due to fluctuations in members’ turnover levels as a result of the pandemic.
“That position will be kept under review as members continue to rebuild and turnover recovers to more normal levels.”
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