Tributes paid to former ABTA presidet John Harding after 72-year-old’s death

John Harding

John Harding - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a larger than life character who spent decades working in the tourism industry.

John Harding died in January at the age of 72.

The retired former president of ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) lived partly in Stoke-by-Clare and partly in the France where he rented out holiday homes.

He was due to get married to fiancé Christine Cox at the end of February and her daughter Bunty Stokes paid tribute to the man who would have been her step-father.

“He was larger than life, I would say. He was very popular. He had a big personality.

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“We have had a massive outpouring of grief since the news went out and lots of people want to pay their respects at his funeral.

“We used to go to Goodwood (motorsport festival) every year and he always used to embrace the dressing up and getting into the spirit of the party.”

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Ms Stokes said Mr Harding spent many years in the travel industry and had met her mother at an ABTA event.

She added he had continued to stay in touch with former colleagues and contacts after his retirement and still attended charity events run by the organisation.

Ms Stokes said after meeting her mother around 13 years ago Mr Harding embraced Ms Cox’s family.

He liked French wine and looking after the guests who stayed in his properties, she added.

“He travelled all over the world with his job and mum and him loved being in France but also going to other European countries as well and places in the UK.”

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “It was with deep regret that ABTA heard of the death of ex-ABTA president John Harding.

“John was passionate about the travel industry, particularly championing the interests of the independent sector.

“Over the years John worked on various ABTA committees and the board before finally being elected as president when serving as a director at city break specialist Travelscene.

“John will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, both professionally and personally.”

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