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Newsletter 2pc: November 2015

Colin Brain

From our Chairman

Dear fellow ABTArians

This past year has been a rich mixture of highs and lows for yours truly. I was very proud to be elected as the Chairman of the Old Abtarians at our Annual General meeting on the 30th September 2014 and delighted to join the group that jumped into taxis for our Eurostar trip later that evening to Brussels.

We arrived at Brussels Midi station on time just after 9.00pm local time. Being the adventurous types that we Abtarians are we set forth on Shanks's pony to find our overnight accommodation at the hotel Floris in the Square de L'Aviation, which after much going around in circles we discovered was in the Anderlecht district of Brussels.

The bonus was to discover that the cafe/bar next door was still open and so we descended en masse upon the Brasserie L'Escale, where our beloved tour leader, Alex, had befriended the local inn keeper and persuaded him to extend his opening hours in order to accommodate the food and beer intake required by a group of British Abtarians.

The following day we ventured out onto the streets and underground system in groups of various size to investigate some of the many treasures of this historic city. Teresa and I found ourselves amongst a group of nine of us who centred our attention on the Military Museum in order to improve our knowledge of WW1 and the atrocities that were inflicted upon this beautiful city and the people of Belgium throughout two global conflicts.

That evening our host at the Brasserie L'Escale excelled himself. The food was delicious and the portions simply huge and before we left he presented each member of our group with a beautiful beer glass together with a glass of Raspberry beer. Our return to St Pancras the following day was smooth and uneventful arriving on the dot at 14:03.

Having such a splendid away trip with our Old Abtarian colleagues Teresa and I then decided to visit one on our "Bucket List" and went to the St James Resort at St Lucia, a fantastic holiday on a fantastic island staying at a truly fantastic resort.

Just before Christmas I was brought down to earth with the news that ABTA were proposing to form an alternative body and that support for us could no longer be viable. Thereafter I was challenged with the task of meeting with the Secretariat and to see where we could go from there.

I am delighted to report that as a result of numerous telephone calls and emails and a couple of face to face meetings it has been decided that a rejig of our group would be a better way forward, the only issue standing in our way being the name of the "Old" Abtarians as ABTA wanted a social group that could appeal to all - and so at our AGM on the 29th September a motion was put before the membership to simply change our name to the Abtarian Society.

There will be an EGM prior to our Christmas lunch when we hope that a change in our constitution will be approved thus putting all our ducks in a row and allowing us to work together with ABTA to grow our society for the future.

I cannot end my column without expressing my thanks for the tremendous hard work put in by our Events Committee of Alex McLeman and Doug Chapman who not only found us a new home for our AGM (the splendid NH Kensington Hotel), organised a great couple of days in Chester, a weekend cruise to Amsterdam and a superb couple of days in Prague. Thanks Guys!


Editor's Notes

Welcome to our Autumn Newsletter and apologies for any delay. Included in this issue are the Minutes of the Extraordinary General Meeting held on the 29th September which concerned name change and a new Constitution which was called for after discussions with A.B.T.A. The Minutes of the A.G.M are available as well and should anyone like a copy just get in touch with myself of Mary Cooke and we can arrange for a copy to be emailed.

Also in this issue we detail our two recent group events in Chester and latterly in Prague which were thoroughly enjoyed by all taking part and our great thanks to Doug and Alex for their organisational skills as it must have been trying to herd cats to get us all there and paid for. Well done to both and all other helpers.

A reminder to those who have not yet booked that our Christmas Lunch is once again at the Oxford Thames Four Pillars Hotel on Tuesday the 8th December free to Members and guests pay £29.00. If you haven't already booked contact Ales MclLeman at to make your reservation. There will be a short E.G.M before the lunch to vote through the name change and Constitution so we look forward to seeing you on the 8th December.

As you can see from the Chairman's letter Colin has had a busy year and we thank him on behalf of all the members for his tireless work well above the call of duty and indeed all those members of the Committee who have been involved with the recent changes to take the organisation forward

Merry Christmas to all and a prosperous New Year - Paul Cresswell

Visits to Chester and Prague

We start with our visit to Chester on the 20/21st May where we had a good gathering of Old Abtarians arrive from all ends of the Country at the Mill Hotel in the centre of Chester where we stayed for two nights. After a pleasant dinner in the hotels Canaletto restaurant and a good nights sleep we had a good breakfast in the company of Lord Prescot who it appears is a regular visitor as his wife if from Chester! The rest of the day was left individual exploring of Chester with some taking the Open Top bus and also a short River Cruise seeing the plenty of sights and sounds of the old Roman town.

In the evening we all assembled for a Dinner Cruise on the canal which was excellent and well organised and enjoyed by all including Alwyn Jones who joined us for the evening. Most of us left the following day but some took advantage of staying over for another day and a good time has had by all!

After the success of the visit to Brussels we ventured further East in September and sampled the delights of Prague the capital of the Czech Republic. After arriving on various flights through the day, most of the group found a local restaurant near to the excellent hotel and sampled the local food and beers for which Prague is famous.

The following day we started with a group walking tour at the Castle and crossing the river via the Charles Bridge and having innumerable statues explained to us we ended up in the main square for us to find somewhere for lunch at any one of the great restaurants which populate the area.

That evening we had dinner on one of Prague's famous River Boats with a very talented musician and singer for entertainment and went to bed tired but happy.

Next day was left to individual choice as there is so much to see and then we had a farewell dinner in an excellent restaurant that evening.

The most common comment was the friendliness of the locals and the low prices of food and drink and it certainly was one of the best trips we have had and all thanks to Doug and Alex for the way it ran so smoothly.


Held at the NH London Kensington Hotel, 202-220 Cromwell Rd, London, SW5 0SW

On Tuesday 29 September 2015 immediately after the AGM

  1. Apologies for Absence
    27 members attended and 21 apologies had been received.

  2. Chairman’s Opening Remarks

    The Chairman, Colin Brain, opened the meeting by thanking the Membership Secretary and other members for their initiatives to attract new members to the ‘Old Abtarians’. However despite these attempts the membership numbers had remained pretty static over recent years.

    The Association had been set up 16 years ago to provide a forum for people who had served on ABTA councils and committees and who had enjoyed each other’s company socially to continue to do so. In those 16 years a number of the early members had either died or had become too infirm to travel to events although many continued in membership enjoying being able to keep up to date through both minutes and the Newsletter. However it had to be recognised that like other ‘Old Boys’ networks the Association would cease to exist if it failed to attract new members.

    This view was supported absolutely by the Immediate Past Chairman, Alan Partridge, who said that his prime aim during his time as Chairman had been to encourage new members. He recognised that the ABTA committee structure had been severely pruned and that there were no longer any regional committees with the inevitable result that fewer committees meant fewer committee members and therefore fewer potential recruits to the Old Abtarians. However it was clear that ABTA had not been proactive in promoting the possibility of joining the Old Abtarians to those leaving committees.

    The Chairman explained that he had had meetings with Mark Tanzer, the Chief Executive of ABTA and discussed this issue. Mr Tanzer was clear in his view that, having discussed the possibility of joining the Old Abtarians, many eligible candidates declined because they did not want to be associated with any organisation with the word old in its title. The general view was that this was not attractive and did not send out the message of a vibrant, forward looking group.

    The Industry had changed in the years since the inception of the ‘Old Abtarians’ and ABTA had changed in consequence to meet the changing needs of the travel industry. Mr Tanzer had expressed the view that the Old Abtarians should be more inclusive and should extend beyond the current rather tight membership criteria. Mr Tanzer’s vision was that the Old Abtarians should become a social society open to those either currently employed in or retired from the Industry

    Resolutions had been circulated, which if carried would enable changes to the constitution to meet these challenges. Mr Tanzer had given an undertaking that if the changes were made he would ensure that the full might of the ABTA Public Affairs Dept including new media and social networking would be put behind the promotion of the renamed Old Abtarians.

    The Chairman reminded members that ABTA currently donated £500 to mitigate the costs of the AGM. Historically, when ABTA headquarters had been in Newman St, ABTA had hosted a dinner for the Old Abtarians after the AGM. When ABTA moved premises it no longer had the catering facilities to enable it to host the dinner and had made a financial contribution instead. This had previously been £800 but had stood at £500 for some years.

    He then opened up the meeting and invited views from the floor adding that 9 members had contacted him in support of the resolutions...

  3. Debate

    Roger Lambert opened the debate by saying that said that he was totally opposed to the premise as drafted as it made membership open to all and sundry. The original concept of the Old Abtarians was to provide an opportunity for people who wanted to stay in touch with each other. Resolution 3 made it open to anyone employed in the Industry at any level.

    Braham Kitchen agreed with Roger Lambert’s view. He thought that the eligibility criteria needed to be carefully drafted and that membership should not be open to junior staff. The Chairman said that a Membership Committee would be convened comprising the Chairman, Membership Secretary and two other members of the Executive Committee.

    Alan Partridge took an opposing view. He suggested that there was a spiraling decline of people eligible to join using the current criteria and voting no was voting for our own demise. He felt it was a social organisation providing the opportunity for great fun and companionship and providing the fellowship of fellow travellers. The Association would lose more by not adopting the Resolutions than by doing so.

    Brian Cooke felt strongly that the way Resolution 3 was currently worded would allow very junior and short serving staff to join the Association. He believed that there should be very clear guidelines for membership. This view was supported by a number of members present.

    The Chairman left the meeting and the Immediate Past Chairman took the chair.

    John Harding said that he had been asked to chair a working party looking at how to increase membership some time ago and the stumbling blocks had been the inability to access ABTA’s database and the impossibility of getting an appointment to see Mark Tanzer. He was happy to support the suggestion that the word old should be removed from the association’s name provided access to the database was enabled. However he was concerned that no confirmation that this would be the case had been supplied by ABTA. He also suggested that clear thinking should not be clouded by the ABTA financial contribution of £500. This view was supported and it was pointed out that an addition £10 on the subscription would balance the books. The contrary view that this would be an increase of 40% per member and would not be acceptable was also raised. After some general discussion it was agreed that the ABTA contribution should not be a driver in any decision. The support of the ABTA PR department might be considered to be more important in the ability to meet the original stated aim of ensuring the continued feasibility of the Old Abtarians by ensuring that it retained a critical mass.

    There followed a general and at times heated debate with some members feeling that ‘the tail was wagging the dog’ and that the Old Abtarians should not be subservient to ABTA but it was finally agreed that it would be more sensible if a solution was found that was acceptable to both parties and would allow them to operate symbiotically.

  4. Resolutions 1, 2 and 4

    Resolution 1

    The Organisation shall be known as the ABTArians Society and will be referred to as the ABTARIANS

    Resolution 2

    The aim is to renew, maintain and foster friendships between colleagues who have or are now serving ABTA and the broader travel and tourism industry in a voluntary or professional capacity and have, through their endeavours, assisted in the growth of the Travel and Tourism Industry.

    Resolution 4

    The annual subscription shall be reviewed annually by the executive Committee. Subscriptions shall be due on 1 September each year.

    These resolutions (1, 2 and 4) were agreed unanimously by the members present but as that was not two thirds of the total membership it was recognised that the resolutions should be put to an EGM and that this might be at the Christmas Lunch.

  5. Resolution 3

    Resolution 3

    Membership of the ABTARIANS is open to those persons who have served ABTA as a member of Councils, Standing Committees, working Parties, Regional Officers, existing or former members of the secretariat, ABTA partners or Collaborators who have contributed towards the Travel and tourism Industry and the achievement of ABTA’s aims over the years.

    As the matter had been discussed in depth earlier in the meeting the Chairman called for a vote. The resolution was defeated.

    Peter Hayward, a former chairman of the Old Abtarians offered to redraft the Constitution to reflect the views aired at the meeting and this offer was unanimously accepted with thanks.