Travel and tourism must resume cautiously and not “too fast”, the head of the European Travel Commission (ETC) has warned.

Eduardo Santander, ETC executive director, said: “Our industry, which is suffering so much, cannot be too fast. That would be a tremendous error to make now.

“We have to be careful. There are going to be protocols and we have to behave in a cautious way.”

Santander told a virtual Destination Summit hosted by the Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council and marketing agency Finn Partners: “We’ve seen not only tourism’s resilience but its vulnerability.

“It has gone from 100% to zero and we haven’t seen that in any other sector.”

As the industry restarts, he said: “We have to be conscious that every step has to be double checked. We cannot be frivolous to reopen and forget about Covid, forget about the crisis.”

Santander added: “Some businesses are not willing to open yet, preferring to keep latent until everything is up and running again, and that is a valid decision. We cannot force things to happen.”

He said: “Governments have to be transparent if there is an outbreak. That is very important.

“People have to start thinking that Covid is a risk which is there, but you take the measures and the advice.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. We can respect some new rules and also have a decent holiday.

“If they tell you in a hotel you have to separate from others or if you have to wear a mask for flying, this is fine. It’s for the benefit of everybody.

“We have to be communicative but also positive – we are doing this to save lives and to make our lives run with a certain normality.”

Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism Rita Marques told the summit: “When we had 9/11 everybody said, ‘The industry is going to change forever’. Yes, it changed, but after one year or two the numbers were rising again.

“Most of the [tourism] assets in most countries have not been damaged by Covid-19. And all the characteristics that make Portugal a good destination and make Europe a good destination will be ready. So we are optimists.”

Santander said: “Remember how annoying it was to remove our shoes, to start putting liquids in bags. These things became completely normal. Things will change and people will adapt.

“Obviously, there will be some antisocial behaviour, but the majority of the people are conscious of the situation and will follow the rules.”