The travel and tourism sector needs clarity and co-ordination from governments to enable it to build momentum and survive the Covid-19 crisis, industry leaders insist.

Speaking during the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council ‘Re-engineering Readiness’ virtual summit on Tuesday, executives said it had been easy for governments to take decisive action to impose lockdowns and close travel down but warned there was more pain to come as the world opens up.

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said: “We need to get momentum. In our industry we were running at 100 miles an hour and literally overnight we were shut down.

“We need to take baby steps and it starts with governments round the world lifting travel bans and opening up ports.

“I think the consumers will be there. People want to go back to their normal lives and cruising is a part of their normal lives.”

Clive Jacobs, chairman of Travel Weekly parent Jacobs Media Group, said: “We need clarity from government to get momentum.

“Tourism is a global phenomenon and therefore we need governments worldwide to set an example.

“The British quarantine is distinctly unhelpful to travel and tourism and is a further blow to an industry that is already reeling.

“We know when we come out of this there is going to be a lot of pain to come because we need momentum to build.

“It’s easy and quick to take travel away, but it takes considerable time to build it up and rebuild trust in the travelling public.”

Gerald Lawless, former president of the Jumeirah Group and former chairman of the World Travel and Tourism council, said: “What’s disappointing is we don’t have coordination between governments about how we go forward. We need coordination.”

Lawless pointed to the common travel arrangements between the UK and the Republic of Ireland as the sort of reciprocal deals that could be agreed to create travel corridors.

Del Rio said the western world has been dealing with the coronavirus for just 90 days but that reality was starting to set in about the harm that is being caused to economies and livelihoods.

“One size does not fit all,” he said. “There has been great harm done to economies on a permanent basis where the cure is worse than the disease and I think that has to stop.”

Jacobs said all people running businesses have to “dig deep” during a crisis such as Covid-19 but that no sector can survive if the current situation continues for months to come.

“If we do not start to get going soon we face extinction, certainly to our way of life,” he said.

“We need to make sure that when we come back we can get back as quickly as possible to operating at a level which is sustainable.

“Everything closed down very quickly, but to build it back up is going to take an awful lot of time and skill to manage that building up and be financially viable.”

Lawless praised governments round the world for acting to help protect the most valuable asset in the tourism industry – the people who service guests – through furlough schemes.

And he said, despite the good that it does, the sector needs to take the opportunity to address long term issues of sustainability.

“Our industry is a force for good. It puts money into people’s pockets who need it, it helps people in remote parts of the world,” he said.

“But we need to understand where it does not do good for the environment and we have to address it.”