Q & A with Awards Judge Mark Tanzer

We asked one of our  2018 Association Excellence Awards judges, Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive Officer, Association of British Travel Agents, for his insights on the challenges and opportunities of running an association

What are the most important issues facing associations at the moment?

The most important short term issue is how to get Members through the immediate impact of Brexit, assuming it happens. Medium term, associations will have to decide how to represent their Members’ interests in Europe when the UK is no longer part of the formal structures of the EU.

What advice would you offer associations on how to overcome these issues?

Conduct a thorough contingency planning excercise on behalf of Members, identifying all aspects of their business that could potentially be affected by Brexit, and prepare a thorough communication campaign, suggesting remedial actions where possible. For the medium term, identify important commercial stakeholders within the EU who will be able to represent the UK associations’ interests at the EU table.

How have you successfully maintained and grown your associations membership? 

We merged with another travel association which brought into ABTA a new range of operational activities; this strengthened both associations as we had the resources and brand and the other association had specific expertise in areas such as health and safety, crisis management and sustainability.

What commercial projects have really assisted in this? 

We have extensively revised our health and safety technical guide, which is the industry bible; we have built a separate subsidiary company focused on sustainable supply chain management; we have published the industry’s only guides to animal welfare in tourism attractions.

What do you feel makes a successful association Leader?

A generalist. Most associations do not have management depth, so the Leader needs to be able to understand, and if necessary, assume all the roles in the association.

What are you most proud of having achieved at your association and why?

I am proud that ABTA has broadened its membership to include new business models, while retaining its brand identity as a marque of trust and confidence. We employ 100 people and, I hope, provide fulfilling employment to them.


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