Aito has accused the government of sitting by and leaving operators to "shrivel and die" by failing to agree any legislative respite to ease the refund crisis in travel arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
The association said that along with Abta and various other industry bodies, the sector had thrown "a huge amount of time" at the issue, and lobbied MPs "in some detail".
Aito’s response comes after Kuoni chief Derek Jones told TTG’s latest Keep Your Business Alive seminar the sector had allowed the issue of refunds in travel to become a consumer-led story rather than an industry-led one.
"The narrative needs to be about how the travel industry is there to support customers through these difficult times, rather than the narrative that has emerged about how the suppliers are hiding behind furlough," said Jones.
Abta continues to lobby the government to ease the requirement under the Package Travel Regulations for package refunds to be paid within 14 days and instead allow travel companies to issue financially protected refund credit notes for the full amount of the booking, which can be cashed at a later date.
Several European countries have acted on a concession from the European Commission to allow EU member states to amend their interpretation of the Package Travel Directive (PTD) to achieve this, but the UK travel sector is continuing to wait on action from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis).
"We are all hugely fed up at the lack of any positive reaction from government – specifically Beis – to date," said Aito’s head of commercial Bharat Gadhoke.
"The government seems content to let us all shrivel and die rather than to follow the lead of the 10 or more European countries which have taken the very easy and extremely helpful step of relaxing the wording [of their interpretation of the PTD] to allow the option of holiday refund credit notes – with full financial protection – to be issued, to allow tour operators a little breathing space."
Gadhoke stressed operators absolutely accepted the need for consumers to access a full refund if they did not wish to move their departure back, or rebook for a later date. However, he said a number of factors were making payment of refunds within 14 days a challenge.
"With most tour operators struggling without income in the current coronavirus situation and many consumers happy to defer their holiday until later in 2020 or until 2021, provided they don’t lose out financially, what is the harm in giving the public this option?" said Gadhoke.
"It will save jobs and allow hard-hit operators – who can’t readily obtain refunds from airlines for flights booked, or from accommodation providers – to fight on; a real win-win.
"A good dose of common sense is needed. Saving holiday companies during lockdown will pay massive dividends when lockdown is lifted and the desire to travel later this year or in 2021 is unleashed."