Abta has rejected claims that hundreds of smaller agents and operators face going bust within three years.

The travel association was responding to research by financial analytics firm Companywatch covering 4,000 companies.

The findings, reported on Radio 4’s You & Yours programme, suggested 890 agents and 461 operators were in danger of going out of business.

The study excluded industry leaders Tui, Jet2holidays and Thomas Cook.

However, it highlighted that smaller travel businesses have very few assets.

In some cases the value of the holiday booked might be higher that the asset value of the travel company used, it was claimed.

Insolvency practitioner Steve Parker, a partner at Opus Restructuring, told the programme: “The interesting thing to note about both is that their balance sheets are not too strong, their assets in comparison to other sectors is quite weak. They don’t carry a lot of debt, but when you look at travel agencies in particular, 25% have assets of £25,000 or less and wen you compare that with tour operators, 21% have assets of £25,000 or less also.

“It’s the vulnerability that would concern me because if that business is experiencing some financial distress itself, you may well find that your money is being used to prop up their business.”

A number of these travel firms are finding life “very difficult”, he added.

“These operators and travel agencies are dependent on volumes. The very issue here they are being confronted with is the uncertainty that Brexit’s creating because for a lot of these, they are dependent on the public holidaying in Europe.

“If there’s going to be a move, as has been suggested, that a lot of people will holiday in the UK, that in itself is going to have a real detrimental effect to those whose business is dependent on the European market and that in itself could be the puff of wind that sends them out of business.”

However, and Abta described the research as inaccurate and unreliable.

A spokesman said: “We would seriously question the reliability of this research because in the last three years 13 Abta members became insolvent which represents only one per cent of the total. I don’t think you can really trust this research as a reliable indicator of the state of the industry.”

He added: “We can change and deal with a whole range of factors in a very quick and resilient fashion. If you look at bookings so far for next summer, the latest industry figures show that they are up year on year.

“That gives a much better indication of the health of the industry.”