Arguing against the closure of borders at present is “futile” and the industry should instead be working with the government on a plan for re-starting travel when it’s safe.

That is according to Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer, who insisted: “The government’s health policy is very clear. They want to get infection rates down and stop variant forms of the virus coming in.”

Speaking at a Travlaw online Big Tent Event, Tanzer said: “A lot of the public agree shutting the borders is the right thing to do. For us to argue against that would be futile but also not the right thing to do.

“Working closely with the government to put in place a re-opening plan, which could potentially be a combination of vaccination certificates, more rapid testing, perhaps more selective quarantine – and working with overseas destinations because they have to let us in – is what we need.”

More:Ministers ‘wrong’ to insist ‘now not the time to book summer travel’

Health secretary defends hotel quarantine approach

Asked when travel might restart, Tanzer said: “There is not enough evidence to say with confidence when any market will re-open and when people will be able and confident to travel.

“We’ve seen customers are sensitive to announcements, to changes in government policies. When the vaccines were announced, there was a surge in optimism. Lockdown has come back and has had a real impact not just on current travel but on people’s confidence to book.”

He added: “The vaccination programme is being rolled out, [but] it’s not really targeted at mass market travel customers and, with the three-month delay [between jabs], if you don’t get the second jab until April you then wait three weeks [for immunity].”

Tanzer noted it also remains unclear whether those who have been vaccinated may still transmit the virus and said: “All of this could slow down the re-opening.”

He argued: “It’s extraordinary that the Home Secretary is saying ‘travel is illegal’. Add lockdown, quarantine hotels, the loss of travel corridors and the need for testing and we’re seeing an impact on consumer confidence.

“Nothing would please me more than a full summer of travel, but making predictions and then having to unmake the predictions does not help consumer confidence. Working closely with the government to have a plan for re-opening is the way forward.

“The government must take a risk-based approach to this. If they want zero risk there won’t be any travel.”