Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 tourism destination.

  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 "Britain—We 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.

April 2001

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