Nick Greenfield, head of tour operator relations at the European Tour Operators Association (Etoa), has died following a long illness.

Greenfield, 45, had been battling cancer for eight years but had worked continually right up until this month. He died on Sunday of last week. In a statement, Etoa said it was “deeply saddened”.

Tom Jenkins, Etoa chief executive, said: “The industry has lost a mine of information and a stalwart defender of its interests. His friends and colleagues have lost a great and gentle companion.”

Greenfield joined Etoa in 2010 after several years working for the association on a freelance basis. He had worked in tour operating and as a tour guide, which Etoa described as “an abiding passion”.

In a tribute, Jenkins said: “Nick combined a hunger for culture with a passion for sharing his knowledge. There was not a country in Europe he had not visited and understood. In Italy, his first love, there was not a province he did not know.

“He was a gifted linguist. In French, German, Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Croatian and Slovenian he had full fluency. ‘I am not’, he conceded, ‘a normal Englishman’.”