The boss of The Travel Network Group called on the travel industry to be honest with clients as the global coronavirus pandemic puts people off travelling overseas.

Gary Lewis, chief executive of the Worldchoice and TTA agency travel agency consortia, told a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast, that the industry is in crisis.

More than 100 senior industry executives gathered in London on Wednesday for the event featuring guest speaker Lord Digby Jones, a cross bench peer, former CBI director and minister of state for trade and investment.

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Opening the event, Lewis said: “Today we stand at a crisis for our travel industry. We as leaders need to be having the most important conversations right now.

“People are scared for their businesses and for their livelihoods because of the changes that have been forced on us from events we cannot control.

“So, what can we control? This is not a time for keep calm and carry on. It’s a time to keep calm and listen to our customers, look after them, address their fears and worries.

“Be honest with them and do the right thing for them. Travel agents and tour operators are able to do that more than anyone else. Look at what we can do right now and what we can control.

“In our current world we question whether we should be even here right now [at this event].

“Now is the time for action, but it’s the tome to listen to as many bright, experienced and compassionate people as possible from inside our industry and outside of our industry.

“We must resonate with people, and stay calm and think carefully under pressure.”

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 122,026 on Wednesday with 456 in the UK, up 73 on the previous day. Total deaths globally stood at 4,392, or 6% of those who contracted it.

Cases in Italy have jumped to 10,149, up 631, in Spain they were up 487 to 2,182, France has 1,784 cases, Germany 1,656, up 91, and the US 1,016, up 22.

Lord Digby Jones was speaking at a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast in partnership with Google and supported by headline sponsor The Travel Network Group and Webloyalty.