TUI Travel chief executive Peter Long has hit out at the banks for their role in the current economic crisis.

Speaking at the Institute of Travel and Tourism’s Odyssey supper at the House of Commons, he said: “Banks have spent years telling us how to run our businesses and then screw up their own businesses.

“They lent money to people who could not afford to pay it. I take my hat off ot the government’s action to bail out the banks, but where have we got to when we get to a situation like this? We have got a huge issue with the banking system and what that means for us.”

Long added: “Clearly it’s going to lead to a long downturn.”

But he was confident that the “sod it” factor would mean many people would continue to take their holidays. “I am sure the majority of our customers will still want to go on holiday. Regrettably some will be out of work and some will be concerned in terms of job security; that will impact as to whether they book a holiday.”

The balance in supply and demand means, however, that companies such as TUI Travel will  make “appropriate margins”, he said.

Long gave businesses advice on how to survive the current downturn, telling industry leaders to have strategic clarity and not to panic.

“We need to be confident and measured. This is a golden opportunity to make sure your house is in order and deal with any issues,” he said.

He also told companies to ensure their businesses were flexible and employed the best possible staff.

He said: “Adapt capacity and make sure you have got great people around you. All of us are relying on teams to run our businesses – be demanding and choosy [about staff].

“By doing all these, our industry will get healthier and the weak will fail.. We need to come out of this situation as strong as we can – I think we are capable of doing that.”