Travel agencies and tour operators have been the worst hit of all major UK industries by the COVID-19 crisis with turnover down by over a half.

The stark assessment of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic comes from accountancy network UHY Hacker Young which includes 90 partners across the country.

UHY Hacker Young predicts many firms will go out of business once government support, such as the furlough Jobs retention scheme, ends.

It estimates that in March turnover for the sector slumped 56% year on year from £2.6 billion in 2019 to £1.2 billion this year.

The accountancy group says that the lockdown has already hit the prime Easter holiday season as well as two spring bank holidays, “sharply reducing sales for some of the highest-revenue points in the calendar”.

Meanwhile, customers who would normally be booking summer holiday have put plans on hold while others are demanding refunds for cancelled holidays.

UHY Hacker Young claims some high street businesses are now struggling to pay rent as well as being forced to furlough staff.

And it says that many travels agents and tour operators “will not survive the coronavirus even after the lockdown ends”.

Peter Kubik, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: “The UK’s travel agents and tour operators have been hit hardest by the double whammy of the lockdown and a collapse in discretionary consumer spending.

“The lockdown is a particularly hard blow to high street travel agencies who have been struggling for years against the shift to the internet and the huge DIY sites like Booking.com and Expedia.

“There will be a rush of people booking holidays once lockdown ends but that may come too late for some in the sector.

“Many are likely to be effectively insolvent already and only surviving because of the help the government has put in place.”