There is “a real risk” that US tourism to Europe this summer “will be lost” without a plan to reopen borders.

That is according to Jennifer Tombaugh, president of US tour operator Tauck, who insisted: “Nobody is saying ‘Just open the borders’. The challenge is that there is no plan and the continuing uncertainty makes it difficult to prepare for what might be coming.”

Tombaugh told a webinar hosted by European travel association Etoa: “If a plan is not announced soon there is now a real risk the summer in Europe will be lost.”

Etoa policy director Tim Fairhurst agreed: “The current certainty is unsustainable. We’ve seen great scientific success in the last 12-14 months, but politicians are struggling, failing to make decisions fast enough and failing to reach a coordinated position.

“The impact is serious not just on demand but also on supply. Once travel is possible, will the supply chain be there?”

He warned of “very serious difficulty unless we can give some clarity to buyers and suppliers”.

Tombaugh argued: “We need to know when borders might open, what is required to make that happen and how it’s all going to work.

“In the US, the vaccination roll-out is going well. We’ll reach 50% of Americans having a vaccination in April and 70% in June.

“We need a plan that allows us at least 60 days’ notice so people can make their plans otherwise they are moving into 2022.”

She said a restart anywhere “will help everyone”, adding: “We’re hopeful we might see some countries where there are high vaccination rates like the UK ‘peel off’.”

Fairhurst warned: “Are we going to get to a place where there is competition for visitors when what we need is a coordinated opening?”

Luis Araujo, president of the Portuguese national tourism authority and president of the European Travel Commission, insisted: “My mission is not to have 10 more tourists than other countries, it is to regain trust and get people moving. What is crucial is to create bridges.

“We need to regain trust and confidence and we can only do this with predictability.”

Agnes Leroux, Airlines for Europe (A4E) policy director, told the Etoa webinar: “It could take years to recover the connectivity of the continent. We need clarity and dates when things will be possible again.

“We understand we can’t reopen just yet but we need to prepare and this preparation takes time. It needs to start now. We are calling for the EU to lead a recovery taskforce.”

Christina Russe, deputy secretary general of European travel agents’ and tour operators’ association ECTAA, added: “We are trying to get a common European approach [and] a coordinated lifting of travel restrictions.

“We said many times we need a plan. We need to be able to tell customers when they will be able to travel, but also to tell enterprises when they will be able to operate.”