A summer restart is “probably the best” the industry can now hope for, according to Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer.

The prospect of overseas travel at Easter has receded and Tanzer told Travel Weekly: “The government is non-committal about when lockdown is going to end and when travel restrictions are going to stop.”

He described the government as “in a very conservative phase in terms of risk” and said: “Opening up by the beginning of April would be welcome but a bit of a surprise.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Tanzer said: “I would like to think we could get moving [by Easter] but, hand on heart, getting in shape for a summer restart is probably the best thing we can focus on.”

He argued clarity on whether those who have been vaccinated could still spread the virus would be vital.

Tanzer pointed out: “If you’ve been vaccinated and you are immune, then the level of infection in the place you’re going to shouldn’t really matter. That is the nub of how quickly vaccination will feed into international travel.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, does that make the receiving country sufficiently comfortable that you can come without any kind of pre-departure test?

“That is a crucial piece of medical evidence – not just for international travel but for how quickly we can unlock the economy.”

He argued: “Once people have been vaccinated, there should be more scope for them to move around within the UK or overseas. It’s just a question of agreeing the protocols and the level of risk.

“We could end up in a situation where either you need a test or you demonstrate you’ve been vaccinated.

“So if you haven’t been offered a vaccine or you decide you don’t want the vaccine [that] may push you to having to demonstrate you’ve had a negative test. But we don’t know what attitude we’ll take or other countries will take towards arrivals.”

Tanzer added: “This summer will vary market by market and company by company. I don’t think there will be a switch flipped and everyone suddenly starts going [abroad] again.

“If places get ahead on the vaccination programme, they might open up their tourism faster than others. It’s hard to generalise.

“We need the vaccine rolled out worldwide as quickly as possible.”