The Association of Independent Tour Operators recently celebrated its 40th anniversary at a special dinner staged at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, London.
More than 150 AITO Tour Operators, AITO Agents, Affiliated Business Partners and Tourist Offices, Social and Honorary members and special guests attended.
Simon Reeve – the British author, television presenter and explorer – was the special guest for the evening and delivered an inspirational speech. Colin Murison Small, AITO’s founder and first chairman, was also in attendance.
Chairman of AITO, Derek Moore, said: “Following the collapse of Court Line and the introduction of the ATOL bonding system in 1975, AITO was started in April 1976 with just 20 members. The main aim then was to achieve a ‘realistic and fair level of bonding in order to discourage reckless trading and avoid the risk of a drain on the Air Travel Reserve fund by unscrupulous or incompetent tour operators’. It’s ironic to see that, 40 years later, not much has changed on the UK travel landscape.
“AITO members have weathered many a storm in the last 40 years, but the original ethos has stood the test of time. Our members are passionate about their businesses, strive for a level playing field within the travel industry and deliver quality holiday experiences for their customers while also protecting their holiday funds 100%.
“I am delighted to celebrate such a momentous milestone for AITO with so many familiar faces, both old and new. AITO has come so far in the last 40 years and I can’t wait to see the association go from strength to strength over the coming years.”
The evening concluded with AITO’s members’ awards, which have been reintroduced after a gap of a few years and are now based around client reviews on AITO.com. The categories were AITO Tour Operator of the Year, AITO Agent of the Year and AITO Affiliate of the Year.
The 2015 AITO Tour Operator of the Year award went to Peter Sommer Travels, with CICERONI Travel picking up the silver award and The Mountain Company winning bronze.
The 2015 AITO Agent of the Year award went to Traveller’s World Salisbury, with Journeys à la Carte winning silver and Deva Travel taking out the bronze award.
3For and Holiday Extras were joint winners of the 2015 AITO Affiliate of the Year award, with Faremine taking out Bronze.