An unprecedented number of companies are on the verge of collapse in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, travel and airline sector leaders have warned.

Industry groups, including Iata and the World Travel & Tourism Council, wrote an open letter to G20 employment ministers ahead of an extraordinary meeting on Thursday urging them to urgently remove bottlenecks to economic relief and increase financial assistance to enterprises worldwide.

They warned: “A huge number of small and medium enterprises are affected by dire consequences threatening their sustainability.

“This puts millions of jobs and livelihoods at risk. This also hampers our collective capacity to drive any economic recovery.

“In today’s interconnected global economy, the spill-over effects created by the failure of one critical industry will result in the collapse of the others.”

The letter, also signed by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), International Road Transport Union (IRU) and International Apparel Federation (IAF), said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is above all a human tragedy, which is having disastrous consequences on the health of hundreds of thousands of people.

“Tackling the health emergency is our first priority. At the same time, as a result of Covid-19 containment measures, the industries we represent, as well as others, are severely impacted by the economic shockwave with unprecedented numbers of companies on the verge of collapse.”

IOE represents more than 50 million companies while Iata, IRU, IAF and WTTC collectively account for 700 million jobs across the aviation, road transport, apparel, travel and tourism industry, almost a quarter of the global workforce.

They voiced concern that economic stimulus packages pledged at the G20 Leaders Summit in March are “insufficient or have not yet reached the real economy, especially SMEs.

“This is because processes to access financial support are too complex and difficult to activate, when what is needed is efficiency and simplicity.

“We therefore strongly urge G20 employment ministers to bolster their financial support and facilitate their swift implementation.

“Without immediate and stronger action taken by all governments, the impact of business closures will have deep-rooted economic and social effects that will shatter the foundations for any immediate economic recovery.”

The five organisations pledged to join forces to work with governments and stakeholders to ensure recovery efforts are implemented effectively.

“We believe that by working together we can achieve a rapid global recovery that will benefit G20 states, their citizens and the wider world,” they said.