Abta estimates job losses in travel may have almost doubled over the past three months, after nine in 10 summer holidays were cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The association said that despite the government’s travel corridor regime, the travel and tourism industry had not been given a realistic chance to recover over the summer.
It now expects current trading conditions to drive bookings from October through to the end of the year down 93% year-on-year.
Meanwhile, a new survey of Abta members, conducted over 23-30 October, found the number of people in travel who have been made redundant or placed at risk of redundancy owing to the effect of the Covid downturn on travel, had increased from around 90,000 in August to 164,000.
Abta stressed on Thursday (12 November) the findings pre-date the announcement of England’s new national lockdown, which has forced agencies across the country to shut their doors again.
The survey also found more than a third of businesses are yet to resume active operations since the UK-wide lockdown earlier this year, highlighting the constraints on the sector.
Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: "The travel industry has had no meaningful chance to recover – bookings have largely vanished, cancellations are common as destinations move on and off the travel corridor list, and the government is yet to deliver a testing framework for industry and customers.
"The results [of the survey] are stark for businesses – job losses are mounting at an alarming rate and viable, longstanding businesses closing their doors for good."
Tanzer added it was "short-sighted" of government to overlook an industry that is fundamental to the UK’s economic recovery, one which he said "underpinned" the UK’s connectivity, as well as its imports and exports.
"We need the government to step in and support the industry now – as it has done for other sectors – so the industry is ready to support the UK’s wider economic recovery," said Tanzer.
"Without action, the government risks jeopardising the speed at which the UK’s economy can come back from the pandemic.”
Abta wants the government to provide tailored support for the travel industry and put measures in place both to boost consumer confidence and ensure a swift resumption of travel following the latest month-long lockdown.
The association said that despite news of a potential vaccine giving the industry a lift this week, and going some way towards restoring consumer confidence in making future travel plans, travel businesses were in dire need of immediate help.
It believes government policy has actively "stood in the way of a recovery", with sectors such as cruise and school travel "closed altogether" and others barely able to operate due to the many last-minute changes to government travel corridor arrangements making travel too great a risk for many.
Amid the gloom, though, Abta said its latest survey had uncovered some green shoots, with members reporting taking 45% of the bookings for summer 2021 they would have expected at this point in the annual booking cycle – "far behind normal" said Abta, but "an improvement on near-term bookings".
"There is demand for travel and we are starting to see people booking for summer 2021 – demonstrating the importance of travel and resilience of the market," Tanzer added.
"This will no doubt be boosted by the news of a vaccine, but we must remember that a robust vaccine programme is many months away and the industry is struggling now."