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Published on Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Agents slam ABTA chief Mark Tanzer's pay

Travel agents have expressed outrage at ABTA's directors' pay packets, including that of Chief Executive Mark Tanzer who earns almost as much as the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer combined.

Speaking as ABTA prepared for its Travel Convention, which will take place online today, agents said they were 'appalled','disgusted' and 'horrified' at how much the Association is paying its staff after its 2019 financial accounts were posted on social media.

The accounts for the year to the end of June 2019, which are published on ABTA's website, show its 'highest paid director' received a gross salary of £272,000 plus £26,000 in pension contributions and £4,000 in benefits.

There is a further entry of £123,000 for directors' fees. Chairman Alistair Rowland said these were 'modest' fees for non-executive directors.

Boris Johnson's prime ministerial salary is £158,000; Chancellor Rishi Sunak is paid £150,558, which includes his MP's salary.

According to, the average CEO salary in the UK is £105,000, but the average pay for the boss of a FTSE 100 company was £3.46m in 2018. In 2019, the UK's highest paid director was Bet365 boss Denise Coates who earned a record £323 million.

ABTA earned £10.3 million last year, £6.4m of which came from subscriptions. It paid out a total of £5.8 million in wages for 94 staff.

One agent, who has been in the industry for 41 years, said it was time the Association's directors were held to account. He said it was wrong that ABTA pays more than 90% of its subscriptions in wages.

"To spend so much of our subscription money on salaries is shocking, when you think that ABTA hasn't done anything to get our industry noticed during the pandemic," he said.

"Some of that money should have been spent on hiring a professional lobbyist to lobby the government, like other industries do. All I see on TV are representatives from the hospitality industry, and they're getting support and we're getting ignored.

"The only person who's supported us is (TV presenter) Eammon Holmes. What have ABTA's directors done?"

Another agent said ABTA directors should 'hang their hands in shame' for the lack of support they've given to the trade during the pandemic. "ABTA have been extremely low key during this whole situation and the media have had to rely on other 'so-called' experts who actually know nothing about the retail travel sector," she said.

Speaking at today's ABTA Convention, Mark Tanzer, who has been Chief Executive of ABTA since 2005, said the Association had told the government that the travel industry had been hard hit very early in the pandemic. "We think that helped to get the initial furlough scheme up and running," he added, pointing out that ABTA was also an early advocate of the implementation of travel corridors.

"Throughout all of this we have to make the case for outbound travel. We have demonstrated the value of outbound travel."

Mark has made several public appearances on behalf of ABTA during the pandemic, including on BBC Breakfast in April to explain Refund Credit Notes and reassure consumers that they were entitled to a refund; in May, he gave evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee calling for urgent government support for the industry; and in August he appeared on Sky News to emphasise the precarious state of the industry, warning that 90,000 jobs were at risk.

He said ABTA will continue with the Save Future Travel campaign launched in April, calling on the government for direct support for the sector along the lines of that given to the hospitality industry, making it clear to ministers that Covid has had 'an equally devastating effect' on the travel industry.

But one agent accused ABTA of shooting the travel industry in the foot by telling the public they'd have to wait for refunds and by supporting tour operators issuing Refund Credit Notes in lieu of cash refunds.

"They turned the public against us, they put people's backs up," he said. "ABTA is a boys' club, and now they're charging us £125 to attend a Zoom conference at a time when the industry is on its backside, it's a joke."

When asked whether he would have done anything differently at the start of the pandemic, Mark admitted ABTA had 'taken a battering' over its stance on Refund Credit Notes, both from some members and consumers, but he defended his support for RCNs, saying the industry wasn't able to cope with the 'tsunami of refunds'.


By Linsey McNeill, Editor (UK)


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  • Members need to see value

    Certainly 2020 and Covid has exposed ABTA as being powerless in representation and when trying to govern their members on issues like refunds and credit notes. ABTA, well documented for sitting on the fence this year and a position that will be very difficult to come back from. Time for a radical shakeup and to establish a core purpose for ABTA, because protection for consumers or indeed the travel industry was certainly not on their agenda this year.

    By Kennedy Picken, Tuesday, October 27, 2020

  • ABTA - Mark Tanzer

    What fascinates me is this man has no travel industry background. How on earth did he get appointed in the first place. I thought ABTA always chose someone from within the industry.

    By Peter Mackness, Wednesday, October 14, 2020

  • disgusting

    they ought to be ashamed of themselves. ABTA have been absent throughout all of this. I'm sure people will comment and say that they have done, this, that or the other, but my experience is that they have not assisted at all. We as independent agents have had no income for months now and he takes that amount. Shame on Mark Tanzer

    By sandra ollerton, Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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