Urgent government action is “critical” in helping boost consumer confidence in travel due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the £60 bilion sector.

The plea came today from Abta as the travel association hosted its annual travel convention as a day-long virtual event and revealed new figures detailing the impact of the pandemic on overseas travel.

Only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July compared to 64% the previous year.

More than half (53%) said they took fewer overseas holidays this past year over 2019, with 87% of those saying they took fewer holidays because of coronavirus.

Government restrictions around international travel are a major contributing factor in people’s reticence to travel, with 93% concerned about potential last-minute changes to Foreign Office travel advice and 80% worried about having to quarantine on return to the UK.

Abta accused ministers of being too slow to act on tailored support that the travel industry has been calling for since the start of the crisis.

Travel agents in particular face a very difficult few months ahead without dedicated backing, including further grants to aid recovery, the association warned.

“These businesses, the vast majority of whom are SMEs, and which includes high-street businesses that are an integral part of communities across the UK, have had no revenue for nearly a year,” Abta said.

“The Job Support Scheme, which requires people to pay a minimum of 55% of salaries, does not go far enough for these businesses to avoid difficult decisions to let go of valued of staff members.

“It is vital that the Global Travel Taskforce launched this month to consider a testing regime, and other measures to support recovery of the travel industry, acts decisively and urgently to help increase consumer confidence and get the industry moving again.”

Government support is even more critical as the end of the Bexit transition period on December 31 draws near.

Abta added: “Many questions for travellers and travel businesses regarding the UK’s future arrangements with the EU remain unanswered and further clarity is essential to avoid even more disruption for the travel industry in 2021.”

New figures also reveal that more than half of consumers (52%) believe that the travel industry should reopen in a greener way as part of the recovery process.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “There is no doubt that people’s confidence and trust in the industry has taken a huge hit – and we must work hard to earn that trust back.

“Not only is that by being creative and flexible in terms of the holiday and customer experience we offer, but also by making sustainability a fundamental principle of travel.

“We have to look at the whole spectrum of sustainability issues and ask ourselves – how can we do more? Out of every crisis is opportunity – for the travel industry – our opportunity is embracing sustainability. We have a duty to come back stronger and more responsible to ensure our future survival.

“We also need to make sure the UK government understands the huge value of the sector and takes urgent action to support it – not just in the immediate future so we aren’t counting the costs of coronavirus for decades to come – but also with long-term policies that will help the industry to rebuild in a greener way.”