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Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2019

ABTA defends decision to grant membership to US homeworking giant

ABTA has been forced to defend its decision to grant membership to US homeworking giant InteleTravel, which has been criticised by UK agents in the past for recruiting candidates with no travel industry experience.

In a message posted online, ABTA said it has a 'very rigorous' application and thorough membership joining process', adding: "We do not take membership decisions lightly."

However, agents responded angrily on social media to the move, branding it 'an absolute disgrace' and claiming ABTA 'is not worried about its image being tarnished'.

In an update to its decision, ABTA said: "For a travel company to become an ABTA Member they must demonstrate how they meet all of ABTA's strict criteria - including around the financial stability of the organisation, the fitness of the individuals responsible for the company in the UK, as well as adherence to ABTA's Code of Conduct, which is there to ensure high standards. As an ABTA Member they will be subject to the Code of Conduct and held to account.

"In addition, InteleTravel UK has put extra measures in place such as the requirement for all existing agents to complete four mandatory training modules on GDPR, the Package Travel Regulations and customer service, a 100% pass rate must be achieved for agents to continue to operate or for new agents to join the business. InteleTravel UK also introduced independent mystery shopping to test their agents' knowledge of these matters, and provided evidence to ABTA on the completion of the training and mystery shopping results. These additional measures have been welcomed by ABTA.

"After a two-year process, we are satisfied that InteleTravel UK Limited meets all of the criteria and have welcomed them into Membership, commencing Wednesday 20 March."

InteleTravel UK, which already has 1,800 agents in the UK, said its US parent group had reorganised 'every facet of InteleTravel that touches UK travel consumers and the industry' in order to meet UK regulatory requirements.

In a statement, it said: "This will ensure that UK travellers and the reputation of our UK travel agents are properly cared for and protected."

InteleTravel, which was established 27 years ago in the US where it now has 30,000 agents, said the mandatory training for UK agents had been developed with an ABTA partner legal advisor, requiring agents to pass an exam covering ATOL, PTR and GDPR.

It said InteleTravel is bonded as a retail travel agent and has met the financial criteria required for UK trading, ensuring that all sales by its UK agents will be covered by its ABTA membership.

President James R. Ferrara said "We feel proud of this achievement and now that our application review is concluded we cannot wait to tell our own story, accurately and professionally. While a traditional homeworking models exists in the UK, ours is different. New ideas and new competitors are vital to any marketplace. We look forward to making a considerable contribution to the future of the industry here and introducing the next generation of travel-sellers to the UK."

However, agents commenting on social media criticised ABTA's decision to grant InteleTravel membership, claiming that its four training modules 'come nowhere near to giving you experience to be a travel agent'.

The company said it now intends to pursue an ATOL.

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