Agents have called for the cost of Covid PCR tests for travel to come down to “sensible” levels of about £25 per passenger to aid the sector’s recovery this summer.

Prices for the tests – required pre-departure and after arrival in the UK for all travellers regardless of destination when travel resumes – vary from £44.90 to more than £200.

Abta says costs are £128 on average, and double the price of tests in some parts of Europe. The EU has agreed tests can be free of VAT and in some countries costs are capped.

Consortia have thrashed out deals with providers. The Travel Network Group has secured £44.90 and £60 tests with two and The Advantage Travel Partnership has agreed £60 rates for its members.

And this morning Hays Travel announced a tie-up with a company to offer tests from £45 to its customers.

But agents say the cost needs to reduce further for mainstream travellers to book.

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Polka Dot Travel director Mark Johnson said: “We need to get the price down to £25 per head maximum, or get the government to help fund the costs.”

Spear Travels chairman Peter Cookson agreed £25 was “ideal” but suggested a £40 cap.

Premier Travel director Paul Waters said the cost of tests was stopping clients from booking. He added: “We have some families concerned over the potential additional costs. Others already booked are prepared, but not necessarily happy, to pay.”

Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan said: “When parts of the EU are paying between £20 and £25 I struggle to understand why it should be any different here. We are being ripped off. It needs to come to a sensible level.”

Calls came as a survey of 2,000 consumers found 49% of Britons are prepared to pay up to £25 for a PCR test to travel. The Opinium poll, commissioned by insurance provider Battleface in March, showed only  4% were willing to pay £75 or more; 40% would not pay for a family; and 33% were not prepared to pay at all.

Agents and operators in the luxury sector said the “hassle” of finding a test centre and availability 72 hours before departure was more of a concern than cost. Amanda Matthews, managing director of agency Designer Travel, said: “Clients are not worried at all about the costs. It’s the availability and ‘hassle factor’.”