Abta chair Alistair Rowland has warned "thousands" of travel companies will fail unless the government reviews its use of the traffic light system and provides urgent tailored financial support to beleaguered businesses.
Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday (29 June), he said consumer confidence is "low" when it comes to booking international travel as the public "don’t understand" the requirements.
"The market makes most of its money over a 12-week period in the summer, and agencies are out of cash," Rowland added. "They haven’t been able to use furlough because they’ve had to look after bookings, and staff have had to work and there is no cash left.
"Businesses will fail. Significant numbers of businesses will fail – thousands."
Asked how well the government’s traffic light system had worked and if it had helped the industry, Rowland said despite the sector collaborating with the Global Travel Taskforce earlier this year to create the system, "government has not operated it in the way in which it was designed".
"For consumer confidence, customers really don’t understand what they can do or can’t do or the testing requirements, so actually, more confusion equals less bookings, because customers just think it’s too difficult and they don’t understand."
In an open letter on Tuesday (29 June), Abta pleaded with the government to save "the most important summer season ever".
Rowland claimed the travel sector has lost "5,000 heads per month" since March 2020 with "just under 200,000" further jobs at risk.
"We are talking about really serious issues here, and there will be no travel agencies or tour operators in the recovery [without support]," he said.
"The UK’s tourism industry is one of the best in the world – it counts for 2% of the country’s GDP and the government needs it for the economic recovery. We just need it to be recognised for the support it duly deserves.
"The industry has really struggled to gain any kind of support or traction with government, and we really hope this open letter will be the start of the change of that so we can save this great industry of ours."