The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has begun to advise British citizens against all non-essential international travel, initially for a period of 30 days.
Officials said the updated advice reflects the pace at which other countries are either closing their borders or implementing restrictive measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
In response, Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, called on the government to support the hospitality sector.
He continued: “People’s health must be the number one priority, but consideration needs to be had for the immense damage being done to UK travel businesses which are facing a crisis of unprecedented scale.
“Travel businesses are working around the clock to manage arrangements for customers, including repatriation, and have been trying to provide alternative arrangements for those with imminent departures but this has now become impossible as the virus has spread.
“Travel agents and tour operators are also facing a huge drop in future bookings.”
In response, ABTA is calling for urgent action by the government to help businesses in the short-term by making funds readily available to travel and tourism companies and to make temporary changes to existing package travel regulation with immediate effect.
The existing financial protection structures and regulations were not designed to cope with a large-scale collapse of businesses, said Tanzer, echoing earlier calls from AITO.
He added: “Without these reasonable steps, we risk healthy travel businesses going bankrupt, tens of thousands of job losses across the country and customers losing millions of pounds.”
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