Many travel firms remain “perilously close to the cliff edge” due to the coronavirus pandemic, a leading industry figure has warned.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel trade organisation Abta, said businesses “urgently” need Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend financial support which will be “the difference between survival and failure”.
At least 30 travel companies with UK operations have gone bust since March 2020, including STA Travel, Specialist Leisure Group – which ran brands such as coach operator Shearings – and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
Speaking at the start of Abta’s annual convention in Canary Wharf, east London, Mr Tanzer said: “International travel has been forced into a mini-ice age.
“Two summers and one-and-a-half winters have been written off, and only now are we starting to see the thaw.
“It’s too early to speak of recovery, and I’m acutely aware of how many of our members are still perilously close to the cliff edge.”
Mr Tanzer said there are “signs that the darkest clouds may be breaking up”, with research indicating that the intention to travel during the next 12 months has nearly recovered to pre-Covid levels.
But he warned that many of those trips involve bookings which have been deferred, rather than new transactions.
“Our members are still starved of cash,” he said.
“Despite the more positive outlook, it will take time for travel to get fully back on its feet.”
He added: “We desperately needed to see the restrictions and testing requirements eased, and we’re glad that the Government has finally responded to our calls.
“But the job is not yet done. We still need to think of how unvaccinated passengers can be freed to travel; how we can ease the red tape around entering the UK, and how we can harmonise vaccine certification across the world.”
A Government spokesman said: “Through our Plan for Jobs we have provided support to millions of businesses and workers over the pandemic, including through the furlough scheme, grants, tax cuts and deferrals.
“We recognise the challenging times facing the travel sector, which is why we have committed around £7 billion of support and continue to work with industry to help them navigate this difficult period.”