//ABTA comment: Reflecting on 70 years of ABTA

ABTA comment: Reflecting on 70 years of ABTA

This year – in June to be precise – ABTA will be celebrating its 70th anniversary, writes Victoria Bacon. Director of brand and business development, ABTA.

For me personally, it’s also a significant year as after nine years’ service, I will be leaving the Association.    

When it was first established all those years ago, ABTA’s purpose, as defined by ABTA’s first Chairman James Maxwell, was to act as a ‘hallmark’ for all that is good in travel. Today, it’s range of work is certainly broader, but ABTA’s role in providing a badge of assurance and setting high standards in the industry is essentially the same as it was in 1950.

About seven years ago we conducted consumer and Member research to better understand what people really thought about the ABTA brand – was it a financial protection badge?  Or a badge of standards?  Or something else?

The research showed clearly that more than anything else, people felt warmly towards ABTA as badge of reassurance, because of our range of work, including crisis management, and the Code of Conduct.  As a result, we rebranded the Association with the tagline “Travel with confidence” as a more confident and clear assertion of ABTA’s role at the heart of the industry, providing confidence to the travelling public, as well as to our Members.

Since launching the new brand positioning, we have also run annual “Travel with confidence” advertising campaigns, to support Members during what is traditionally the peak booking season for holidays (late December to February).  We have also targeted business communities with a similar message as research shows us that the ABTA badge is as important for buyers of business travel as it is for holidaymakers.

But it isn’t just the badge itself which is important in communicating trust and confidence, it is also what stands behind that badge.  We live in an age of intense media and social media scrutiny among both Members and the public – much more so than was the case 70 years ago –  so we need to be sure that the work we do at ABTA can stand the test of that scrutiny, day in day out and week in week out. 

Whether that is providing timely and accurate information in the event of a travel crisis, or the latest guidance on package travel regulations or animal welfare in tourism standards, the Association’s work is a vital to helping our Members to continue to uphold the best standards.  This work in turn helps people to have confidence in the travel industry and our Members.

And I’m pleased to say that 70 years after the Association was established, the ABTA brand is in rude health.  Last year’s independent consumer research shows that ABTA is not only the UK’s best-known travel association, but also the most trusted, with 78% of people saying they feel more confident booking with an ABTA Member.  ABTA’s brand awareness of 82% is the highest level it’s been since we first measured it independently in 2010.  

So it seems clear that ABTA’s role as a trusted travel association is as important in 2020 as it was in 1950.