Aito has written to the government calling for sector-specific support to save “hundreds of thousands” of jobs.

The association’s open letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak calls for a six-month extension to the furlough scheme for the travel industry, a sector Aito believes the government has a “total lack of understanding of”.

Aito insisted its demand for an extension of furlough was a “minimum” requirement.

It is also calling on the government to offer an “incentive” for bond debtors to provide companies with the  funds they need to be able to provide the “financial protection required by law to enable us to continue in business”.

The letter says: “This is a ghastly perfect storm of a total lack of understanding of the travel industry by the government (our sector reports to five government departments – the DfT, the FCO, BEIS, DCMS and the CAA) and a complete lack of government consultation with the experts within our industry.”

The letter on behalf of 120 Aito specialist operators and 100 agencies adds: “There is a significant mismatch between FCO travel advice (which has no legal backing; it is simply guidance) banning tour operator-organised travel to a wide range of destinations, while the DfT allows airlines to continue to fly.

“This needs to be resolved urgently via Exchequer liaison with the DfT; it makes no sense to have different rules for interrelated sectors of the travel industry.

“Now, with September CAA Atol and Abta bond renewal deadlines approaching, and having worked with pretty much zero cash flow since March 2020 (six very long months, on top of refunding huge sums in respect of bookings made long in advance for the summer season – effectively, three winters in succession; and our industry, unfortunately, loses money in the winter months), another serious challenge awaits the travel sector.

“How, with no cash inflow (but significant cash outflow), are we going to be able to gain the financial protection required by law to enable us to continue in business and to continue to provide protected package holidays for the enjoyment of our clients?”

Noel Josephides, director of Aito, said: “If the government does not act now, then in the winter we will see a wave of redundancies. We’ve had six months of no income and we’ve had three very heavy blows this summer with our three main markets – France, Spain and Portugal – coming under quarantine measures.

“We’re coming to the end of the furlough period in October, and there will be jobs lost as a result if the government does not act fast.”

Conservative MP Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation group, said the industry would suffer “three winters” if the government did not intervene.