Tour operators have been accused of failing to exploit opportunities to open up new destinations because of their obsession with chasing the no-frills carriers.

The first session at today’s Institute of Travel and Tourism Conference in Paphos, Cyprus, will point the finger at the industry’s operators and charter airlines for not sourcing new airline routes.

John Grant, managing director of airport strategy consultancy ASM, said operators should be initiating discussions with UK airports.

He said: “Over the last 10 years as an industry we have allowed airline route development to be driven by the low-cost airlines. We have become paranoid and spent our time chasing them.

“Operators should be proactive rather than going back to the same destinations. They should leverage more support out of the UK market instead of always looking at the other end of the route for support.”

Destinations in Asia and the Caribbean were ripe for development, he added, and yet the charter airline volumes “have gone nowhere” in the last decade.

Grant argued UK airports often found it difficult to speak to the right decision-makers at tour operators to discuss route development.

Despite gloom in the economy, Grant said now was a good time for operators to broker deals with airports and plan new programmes for when the market improves.

“Airports are paranoid about losing business and money so now is the best time for the industry to collectively strike back at the low- cost airlines. Stop bleeting and do something about it.”