Anthony Pearce learns of the major changes ABTA has experienced during Noel’s tenure.
Even in six years the travel industry has changed a great deal,” Noel Josephides, the outgoing ABTA chairman, tells ABTA Magazine. Noel, who is also the chairman of Sunvil Holidays, has headed up ABTA’s board of directors since 2006. Sunvil Holidays is a representative member of ABTA with principal turnover less than £50 million.
Noel’s term comes to an end this summer, when a new chair will be selected. Looking back over his term, he cites the “dramatic growth of Jet2Holidays”, the rise of the adventure market, consolidation and the “enormous rise of homeworkers” as some of the biggest changes the travel industry has experienced during his tenure. Homeworking in particular is continually evolving, he says. “Now we’ve got InteleTravel, which has joined ABTA, bringing another 1,800 homeworkers
into the market.”
Noel says he has been “very proud” to serve as chairman for the past six years, noting that ABTA has continued to grow and evolve during that time. “The biggest strength of ABTA is its in-depth knowledge of the industry and the ability to challenge government on legislations and its reach into Europe, again to determine what regulation is going to look like. A lot of the regulation that has gone into the latest Package Travel Directive has been shaped by ABTA. I would say that ABTA has matured and is now the go-to place for anything to do with regulation, legislation and the threats the industry faces.
“I also think the development of TravelLife has been very hard work but is coming to fruition and is well established internationally. A lot of hotels are coming on board,” he adds. “I think it will continue to grow and provide a good service.”
Of ABTA’s evolving role in the industry, Noel comments that “we’ve made enormous steps in the right direction. What members want is help; in the past two years, the big increase in training, which ABTA has put in place, has been extremely successful and I’m very proud to have been chairman during this time.
“A lot has been achieved and the organisation has grown, matured and become more accessible. It’s a well-funded association and is far more visible, and that increases year by year. It’s a tightrope, but it has succeeded in not only being good for the members but also very beneficial for the travelling public.”
Noel notes that the ever-changing industry still faces many challenges. “The traditional way of doing things is being threatened by large American companies that are unregulated,” he says. “You’ve got the increasing power and domination of Google in the online marketplace.” But, he remarks, the biggest is issue we face is the challenges surrounding environmental issues and sustainability. “It’s something I’m very interested in and something I’ve been involved with for a long time. I’ve been in travel since the 1970s and I’ve certainly battled on environmental matters since the mid-1980s – that’s an enormous issue that the travel industry and airlines must get to grips with.”
Does he have advice or words of wisdom for the incoming chair? “Keep the association relevant to the membership, drive forward the accessibility of the association to the membership and, more than anything else, make sure that ABTA continues to be there to help and understand the problems and concerns the members have. It’s very, very important that we continue that great work.”
And what are his plans after his ABTA chairmanship comes to an end? “I’m now 71 and I’m coming to the end of the more energetic part of life but I’m not thinking, ‘Oh, it’s time to stop’ – there are enormous issues we still have to tackle!”