ABTA Convention tackles the implications of Thomas Cook collapse

Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, told delegates at the association's annual Travel Convention that the collapse of Thomas Cook is a "major event" for the travel industry, affecting not only Thomas Cook employees but also partners and suppliers.

Tanzer said that the collapse has raised questions about why the collapse happened and what it means for the wider industry. He described the bankruptcy as a "failure of corporate finance" with Thomas Cook incurring significant levels of debt, rather than a travel industry failure and was quick to dispel the idea that the package holiday sector is a "dinosaur".

He paid tribute to the CAA for their work in repatriating 150,000 stranded holidaymakers, saying they did "a terrific job".

"ABTA has been working around the clock to support inquiries (and) ABTA members are working hard to support their customers," Tanzer told the conference.

In regard to the future of package travel, Tanzer said it is important to ensure that funds are in place to look after customers but the end of Thomas Cook is "far from signalling the demise of the package holiday". This was reflected in the results of the 2019 ABTA Holiday Habits survey, released this morning, which revealed that 64% of UK holidaymaker choose a readymade package, while 18% have booked a personalised package holiday in the past 12 months. "Best value option for the price" was cited as the main reason for booking a package holiday (52%).

Tanzer told delegates he is "confident other companies will expand to fill the gaps left by Thomas Cook's demise.

Derek Jones addressed the conference on behalf of the ABTA Lifeline charity, which is using the fundraising events at this year's convention to raise money for ABTA members affected by the Thomas Cook bankruptcy. The target is to raise £100,000 and at the time of writing, £42,000 had been pledged.

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