The UK travel association Abta has accused the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, of failing to â€œbat for his sectorâ€, being too slow to provide support and create an airport Covid-19 testing regime.
Abta said thousands more jobs were at risk when the furlough scheme ends, while government policies on quarantine because of coronavirus were deterring travel.
In a withering assessment of a speech by Shapps designed to reassure the beleaguered travel industry, Abtaâ€™s chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said it was â€œvery worryingâ€ and â€œdidnâ€™t take onboard that we are still in the middle of this crisisâ€.
In a recorded speech to Abtaâ€™s annual convention, Shapps said the government had been working flat out, pointing to the creation of travel corridors rather than blanket quarantine, and the announcement last week of a global travel taskforce examining testing proposals.
He said Britain could be a trailblazer for an internationally agreed regime â€œwhere tests and perhaps isolation take place prior to travel and after travel, and we would require no quarantineâ€.
But Tanzer said: â€œThe travel corridors he mentioned, theyâ€™re mainly shut. Weâ€™ve seen none of the results â€¦ it absolutely has to hit the ground, this testing regime, if weâ€™re to move out of this crisis.â€
He was scathing about Shappsâ€™ assertion that the taskforce would be building on work already done by the government, including establishing that Covid-19 tests would not work on day zero of transmission.
â€œIf itâ€™s taken six months to realise that, itâ€™s not huge progress,â€ said Tanzer. He added: â€œHe is the secretary of state for transport. A lot of other sectors will be queueing outside No 11 â€¦ he has to go in and bat for this sector.
â€œWe havenâ€™t seen the evidence, the financial support just hasnâ€™t been there. We need to see the evidence of what heâ€™s doing.â€
Abta said the Â£60bn travel sector needed urgent, tailored government support, including recovery grants for firms and a review of the job-support scheme, otherwise more companies would collapse and jobs disappear.
Abta unveiled research that showed 15% of Britons took a foreign holiday in the six months from February to July 2020, compared with 64% in the 12 months to July 2019. It also found 93% of potential customers had been deterred from booking by potential last-minute changes to travel advice.
Tanzer said he was also concerned by Shappsâ€™ admission that no deal had been reached over air travel between the EU and the UK at the end of the transition period on 31 December, with no backstop agreement of the kind agreed before the original Brexit date in 2019.
Shapps said: â€œWe expect the EU to bring forward contingency measures as it has done before to ensure flights will continue if negotiations are unsuccessful.â€
Tanzer said: â€œItâ€™s only 78 days. If people arenâ€™t sure that the flights will fly, that will be just another deterrent before they book.â€
He added: â€œWe need to move beyond words, get systems in place and customer confidence that they work and theyâ€™re able to travel â€¦ otherwise this will be a very prolonged depression for the travel industry.â€