The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has urged the UK government and EU authorities to change rules around consumer refunds to alleviate pressure on the sector.

One million travel and tourism jobs are being lost in the UK, according to the organisation, with at least 6.4 million across the EU and 75 million worldwide.

The WTTC said increasing flexibility on refunds will have a “profound effect on reducing the intense financial strain being experienced by the majority of tour operators and travel agents”.

The Department for Business (BEIS) is yet to make a decision on suspending the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) requirement to refund consumers for cancelled bookings within 14 days.

Abta wants the 14-day window extended to four months, confirmation that refund credits will be protected, an emergency consumer hardship fund to help pay refunds where suppliers won’t, and “strong enforcement” against airlines which refuse refunds.

The WTTC said the 14-day timeline for refunds is “putting enormous burdens on businesses…and will lead to major bankruptcies”.

“These, in turn, will lead to more claims by consumers on credit card firms and ultimately government bonded schemes,” it added.

WTTC president and chief executive, Gloria Guevara, said: “This measure should be implemented immediately and help lift the already crushing financial pressure on travel and tourism organisations and save the millions of livelihoods that depend on them.”