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Newsletter 14: January 2010

Editor: Doug Chapman

From our Chairman


Paul Cresswell

We had a very well attended Christmas lunch at our usual venue in Oxford and it was nice to see more members than ever before. Once again, many thanks to Roger and Mary for their excellent work in organising a trouble free day. What would we do without them.

2010 has come in with a bang with the ice and snow and I am sure if this goes on we will forget about global warming and get some warming in ourselves, with perhaps a Fred Olsen Family and Friends Cruise in the Caribbean or somewhere else in the sun!

I'm looking forward to our usual Spring gathering which, at this time, is destination to be decided, but I am sure that the team will find somewhere to match the excellent venue of last year on the boat at Stratford on Avon.

The Travel Industry seems to be stumbling from one disaster to another, what with the Globespan problems before Christmas, lousy weather affecting Retail shops and now the collapse of E-Clear the Credit Card Broker which I am sure few Tour Operators as Credit Card facilities are now getting to be a real thorn in Operators and Agents sides. The Trust Fund is becoming the safest way forward, which I am sure will give A.B.T.A. a sizeable headache, so watch this one with interest.

Once again looking forward to seeing you all in the Spring.

The People Place

A warm welcome to Alex McLeman and Stewart Wild as new members and Avril Moreton as a new associate member.

Last August, our only member in Scotland, Alec Mitchell, died at the age of ninety-four. We would like to add our tribute to the many industry accolades about his distinguished career, which spanned sixty years.

He was one of the most respected figures in the Scottish Travel Trade and he served at the highest levels of ABTA and the SPAA. His contribution in every role he undertook was marked by his innate courtesy and his commitment to our industry.

Finally, the sad news about Don Ward, who died very recently after a long period of illness.

Many Members have warm memories of him from when he and Carol joined us on the river boat last spring in Stratford. Most especially, they hosted a lunch at their home the following day. A particularly cherished memory for Old Abtarians.

Don's funeral is at 3.0pm on Monday 1st February at Oakley Wood Crematorium, Wellsboume, Warwickshire CV33 9QP and, afterwards, at the Charlecote Pheasant Hotel.

Carol's request is for family flowers only, while donations to the British Heart Foundation will be welcomed.

The Tenth AGM

Twenty six members were present for the tenth year meeting, a milestone highlighted by the Chairman. It is a real mark of success for the Old Abtarians Association to have proved its' value over a ten year period. It has established a pattern of activities and a level of companionship which seems to give satisfaction and enjoyment to members.

Nevertheless, the committee is always on the lookout for new ideas for activities likely to receive the widespread support of members.

Equally, new members are vital for any healthy organisation and the committee is actively trying to stimulate potential members to join us.

Other subjects covered included a discussion about the web site and links to it, as well as future venues for the AGM and Annual Reunion Dinner now that opportunities with ABTA have changed following their move to new offices.

There was general agreement that a venue in or very near Central London is best for members and the committee will look into the best available options.

Business imperatives prevented Mark Tanzer, the ABTA Chief Executive, from being with us to give his eagerly anticipated "State of the Union" message about ABTA affairs and the travel world at large. Nevertheless and at short notice, Casia Zajac, ABTA Head of Public Affairs, took over admirably.

She covered a lot of ground about topical issues, which provoked lively questioning and discussion, even some quite heated debate.

The new ABTA HQ office in Southwark is fully functioning following the 2008 merger with the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO). However, it will take time to complete the restructuring of the whole Secretariat.

Casia highlighted current ABTA lobbying activities, including widening the scope of financial protection and use of the Air Levy. Green Tourism was another live issue.

She moved onto the forthcoming ABTA Convention, emphasising that 2010 is ABTA's 60th Anniversary and there will be a key focus on stronger brand awareness.

Casia said she was keen to keep Old Abtarians informed about the Association's affairs and a very positive outcome was her commitment to email "ABTA Today" to all our members.

Annual Reunion Dinner

With Newman Street no longer available, Roger Lambert was inspired to give us a contrasting continental touch for the 2009 Reunion Dinner. After the AGM finished, most Members idled away an hour or two in a convenient tavern or cafe, before converging on Long Acre and heading to Le Dieuxieme Restaurant.

Londontown.com says "Le Deuxieme is a typically French restaurant, where romance and food go hand in hand. Simon Conboy in the kitchen boasts an impressive CV that begins with sous chef at The Bleeding Heart in Clerkenwell includes Scott's on Mount Street (et al). With such good grounding in Modem French cuisine it's no surprise that the food here is a gastronomic treat"

And so it transpired - well, perhaps not the romance, but it was certainly ideal for a special night out. The meal was excellent, the wines superb and the company convivial and content. Perhaps the Bleeding Heart in the future, Roger?

Christmas Lunch Oxford 2009

It now seems like a rite of the Christmas Season to set off early one December morning to reach the Oxford Thames Four Pillars Hotel in time for the annual Christmas Lunch.

But it is a rite which people eagerly anticipate. It is good to return each year to a place where you know the ambiance is warm and welcoming, the cuisine excellent and most importantly, to look forward to the company of good friends.

The turnout this year was excellent and forty eight people all made it to the hotel on time. Since this included journeys from as far apart as South Devon, Stoke on Trent and Manchester, it was no mean feat.

Welcoming drinks were served by the fire in the main lounge area, then Members were asked to leave their Guests for a few minutes to attend an Extraordinary General Meeting to agree changes to the Constitution. They were passed swiftly and the revised document has since been circulated by the Honorary Secretary.

By this time, everyone was looking forward to lunch and quickly filled the seats at the seasonally decorated tables. After the Chairman's Welcome and Grace, we all relished the company and the three courses we had chosen - for some quite a surprise since memories fade over the weeks since the decision was made!

And into 2010

The next Christmas Lunch will again be at the Oxford Thames Four Pillars Hotel on Tuesday 14 December. Other events, including the Spring Lunch and the AGM with the Reunion Dinner, will be circulated when dates and details are finalised.

Nevertheless, don't forget in your 2010 plans that Old Abtarians can get a 20% discount off the best advertised price of any Fred Olsen cruise (even better last minute standby offers) as well as 25% off the massive range of worldwide Superbreak hotel offers.

pictures are better than words

French Cuisine in the Autumn


... and traditional Christmas Lunch at Oxford, 2009