Memorandum submitted by the Association
of British Travel Agents Ltd (ABTA)
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute
to your inquiry into the promotion of the United Kingdom as a
ABTA is one of the UK's largest travel trade
associations representing some 2,140 travel agents and tour operators
who between them account for over 90 per cent of the UK package
holiday market. Although we tend to be associated with the overseas
holiday market, a significant proportion of our members' turnover
is accounted for by UK holidays and tickets and some of the leading
UK specialist operators including Shearings, Wallace Arnold and
Hoseasons are ABTA members.
We have worked closely with the UK tourism authorities
in recent years to promote the sale of UK holidays and tickets
through ABTA members. A year ago we launched "BritainWe
have the Knowledge" which is a learning pack about the UK
product and which is intended for use by UK operators and travel
agents. It was produced jointly with the English Tourism Council
and the Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards and has been actively
promoted by ABTA's subsidiary, TTC Training Limited. We have also
piloted an Internet-based booking system with 26 ABTA travel agents.
The aim was to make it easier to sell hotels, attractions, transport
and special packages within the Yorkshire region and we hope that
the system can be rolled out on a national basis following the
pilot. More widely, we have also promoted the British Travel Agents'
Accommodation Register which is a directory of over 2,000 hotels
in the UK and which pay commission to ABTA members. The register
is also available in CD Rom and on the Internet, where many of
the hotels are bookable online.
Against this background, we have been keen to
keep our members updated about progress with the foot and mouth
crisis from the very beginning. We have sent a number of letters
to our members outlining MAFF precautionary measures for trips
to the countryside and have directed members to the MAFF website
and helpline. As you will be aware, the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions has also produced an information pack
encouraging the public not to cancel trips to the countryside.
Again, we have distributed this information pack to all ABTA members
for use with their customers.
Our Public Information Bureau has also been
taking calls from the public about the impact of the outbreak
on travel and tourism. It has drawn on information provided by
the Government and, so far, has handled about 100 calls. Most
of these however have been questions about the impact of the disease
on travellers going abroad.
At an international level, we are keen to promote
the message that Britain remains open for business. Our website,
which is accessed by some 7,000 browsers each week, has the latest
information about the outbreak and directs visitors to other key
sites including MAFF and the DCMS. In our contacts with our international
counterparts, we will also be promoting the message about business
as usual. For example, we will be taking part in a meeting with
all of our European colleagues in May in Budapest which will be
an excellent opportunity for us to get the message across that
Britain remains open for business.
I hope this information is helpful. Please let
us know if we can be of any more assistance to the Committee.