More than 20 travel and tourism bodies as well as unions across Europe united today to demand quarantine restrictions be replaced with an EU-wide testing protocol.

They have signed an open letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leven warning that the livelihoods of more than 27 million Europeans who work in the sector are at risk.

The groups, representing more than 5,000 member companies, point to a continued lack of co-ordination and diverging travel restrictions as crippling their business.

The letter is signed by airlines, airports, railways, ground handlers, caterers, travel retailers, air navigation service providers, tour operators, hotels, restaurants, cafes, travel agents, road transport operators and logistics services, camp sites, holiday parks, taxi operators, tourism boards and authorities and all their associated supply chains.

European Travel Commission president Luís Araujo said: “European travel and tourism has suffered a devastating blow from the coronavirus crisis due to insufficiently coordinated border restrictions, declining traveller confidence and reduced consumer demand.

“The industry simply cannot afford to have a similar fragmented picture with inconsistent and constantly changing national approaches for the upcoming autumn and winter seasons.

“The freedom of movement and millions of livelihoods in Europe are at stake today and the European Commission has to lead the way to restore travel in the EU.”

The letter comes as the latest data from airport body ACI Europe shows a continued decline in passenger traffic in the first two weeks of September – now standing at a loss of 73%; down from sluggish ‘peak recovery level’ sowing a 65% decline in mid-August.

The letter says:  “This chaotic situation requires your immediate personal involvement.

“We are thus urging you to make this issue a top priority and calling on you to address this issue directly with heads of state and government.

“We are therefore also urging you to ensure that the Commission takes the lead in the development of an EU Testing Protocol for travel and its implementation to avoid quarantines and re-open borders”.

It points to the the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advice against extreme travel restrictions, which are neither risk-based nor proven effective where community transmission is already present – which is the case across Europe.

The reduction and removal of quarantines is “instrumental in re-establishing the free movement of people, ending current discriminations and restoring the essential functionality of the single market”.