The government is being urged to reassure consumers that it is safe to make holiday bookings for after the end of the month amid a slump in sales.

The call came amid traveller fears that a no-deal Brexit will lead to queues at airports and that they will need extra documentation.

Only passports valid for a minimum of six months will be valid in Europe if the UK crashes out of the EU on March 29 although the government and European Commission have said that flights will continue.

But Association of Independent Tour Operators director Noel Josephides said: “Consumers are looking at the Brexit mess and thinking ‘no matter what they tell me, I just think I’ll wait’.”

He told The Times on Saturday: “It is good the government are taking out adverts to warn people to check if their passport will be valid but they should also be taking adverts out telling people it is still safe to book holidays.

“The government may tell us to prepare for a hard Brexit, but if they don’t tell you what the terms are, then none of us really know how to.

“I talk to the Portuguese, the Greeks and other destinations that rely on tourism and they are saying they don’t want this situation to continue. But for consumers there is nothing to worry about.”

Josephides was responding to research by TravelSupermarket which found price cuts of as much as 24% on Easter breaks over the same period a year earlier, as first reported by Travel Weekly last Thursday.

The firm’s travel commentator Emma Coulthurst described the rates – checked during the peak booking period between December 25 and February 21 – as being “virtually unheard of” for the school holidays.

Abta has led meetings with the government in a bid to secure assurances that travel will continue as normal after Brexit.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer wrote to prime minister Theresa May, exiting the EU secretary Stephen Barclay, shadow ministers and selected MPs two weeks ago as part of on-going lobbying over Brexit to re-emphasise increasing industry worries over a no-deal exit.

The travel association last week re-launched an advertising campaign on Facebook, directing travellers to Abta’s website for information and advice about travelling after Brexit.

Tanzer called on the sector to “plan for every eventuality and work to make customers aware of any actions they may need to take”.

He outlined the next steps in the voting process on Brexit for MPs:

• March 12 (latest). MPs will have a meaningful vote on the current withdrawal agreement.
• March 13 (latest). If not enough MPs vote for the withdrawal agreement, MPs will then vote on whether the UK should leave the EU on March 29 without a deal.
• March 14 (latest). If MPs vote against leaving the EU without a deal on March 29, MPs will then vote on whether to extend Article 50 for a short period.

“What is important to be clear on from these votes is that even if on 13th March MPs vote against leaving on 29th March without a deal, no-deal could still be an option for further down the line if MPs vote for an extension. It is also possible that the EU could deny any request for an extension,” Tanzer said.

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