Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer branded the UK government’s "vague" messaging on overseas leisure travel "indefensible".
Speaking at Abta’s Travel Matters conference on Tuesday (22 June), Tanzer said he was "infuriated" after environment secretary George Eustice urged people to holiday at home.
"They have a traffic light system that is suppose to be scientific, but then they lob in, ’by the way, don’t travel for leisure purposes’. But if this is not official guidance, what is it?," Tanzer queried.
"You can travel to these countries [on the amber list], and the Foreign Office advice isn’t to not travel to them.
"It says you can go, of course you have the impediments of quarantining and testing, but this general sort of ‘don’t travel’ is really damaging to the industry."
Tanzer said Abta member’s bookings "dried up" following Eustice’s comments. "We have a traffic light system, and yes we do want more countries in the green category, but people can still travel to countries in the amber category even if it involves quarantining and testing," said Tanzer.
"Let’s use that system, and get people comfortable with how it works, and not have these general statements that are misunderstood."
In his opening remarks, Tanzer called on the government to make the operation of the traffic light system "clear and transparent" as the industry and customers alike have "no idea" as to how countries are moved between the categories.
The address came ahead of Abta’s Travel Day of Action on Wednesday (23 June), which Tanzer believes will help to "raise the stakes" against the government.
"We are not powerless," he said. "It’s a tough time, there are difficult financial decisions being made and we understand that. There are other sectors as well who I’m sure have strong cases as to why they need support.
"But tomorrow [Travel Day of Action] brings together everyone to speak with one voice. It shows we can bring the whole weight of the industry to join the argument.
"We will keep the pressure up. I hope we don’t have to wait for businesses to fail to convince the government that this is not make-believe, this is actually happening.
"Every day we lose is another day of lost revenue. It is urgent. I hope tomorrow will raise the stakes."