Public confidence in overseas travel has been shattered by  “chopping and changing” government quarantine restrictions and Foreign Office advice, Abta warned today.

Policy decisions designed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic have served as a “straightjacket” to travel and threaten tens of thousands of industry jobs.

The association revived a plea for ministers to introduce specific measures to support the travel industry as new figures revealed that 80% of people are concerned about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK.

The findings, based on a poll of 2,000 people, also show that 93% of are concerned about potential last-minute changes to Foreign Office travel advice.

The travel association is urging ministers to move to regionalised quarantine and introduce Covid-19 testing to restore confidence in travel.

The research demonstrates that the current approach to foreign travel advice and quarantine measures has shattered people’s confidence in travelling abroad, Abta said.

Viable travel businesses – including the thousands of travel agents – are unable to generate income as a result.

Abta has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Grant Shapps as part of the Save Future Travel Coalition to highlight the urgent need for specific measures to support the travel sector.

With people not travelling, travel companies are not generating cash and they cannot afford to pay a minimum of 55% of salaries to retain jobs at this time through the new Job Support Scheme which replaces furlough.

Abta said: “The situation is particularly stark for travel agents, who earn commission paid on the departure of their customers, with many of these businesses looking at experiencing a full year without significant revenues ahead of the travel period at Easter 2021.”

A recent member survey showed that over 90,000 jobs across the wider travel sector are already lost or at risk, and 65% of travel agents and tour operators have made redundancies as the furlough schemes wound down.

Only 28% of previously furloughed staff had returned to work by August, and nearly 80% of businesses that had not yet let staff go anticipated having to do so in the coming months. The new job scheme does little to avoid this outcome.

The travel market needs to open-up again for businesses to be able to survive.

Other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, already operate fully regionalised approaches to their quarantine regimes, including for mainland areas, and many countries have introduced testing to reopen travel to a greater number of destinations.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The travel industry was the first to be affected by the coronavirus crisis and will be the last to recover.

“What travel businesses need more than anything is for people to feel confident enough to travel again, and policy decisions taken by government to manage the pandemic have served as a straitjacket to travel.

“The chopping and changing of quarantine measures and travel advice means what went back on sale one week is taken off again the next.

“This, coupled with an increasing number of local lockdowns in the UK, is creating extremely difficult market conditions for travel businesses, with travel agents particularly hurting.”

He added: “While we recognise that the government is attempting to offer some ongoing salary support through the new Job Support Scheme, in reality, it offers little help for travel businesses as they aren’t able to generate the revenue needed to cover the cost to employers.

“Without action from the government, we are going to see businesses that would be perfectly viable if government were to ease restrictions on travel closing their doors, and thousands of jobs will be lost.

“Addressing these issues, while maintaining health precautions, must now be a priority for ministers.”

The UK travel industry supports more than 100 million inbound and outbound trips annually in normal times, with an economic contribution of more than £60 billion, and employing almost to one million people.