A spike in bookings since the prime minister’s roadmap announcement proves pent-up demand, and should give confidence to finance firms to support travel companies through a “continued cash crunch”, says the chief executive of Abta.

Speaking in a video update to members, Mark Tanzer said the industry is at a “critical juncture” but could “recover quickly” once restrictions are eased.

Addressing members, he said “very pessimistic predictions” that there would be no international travel until August were “misplaced” and that the announcement “proved” that comments from government ministers in recent weeks that it is too early to book a holiday were “premature”.

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He noted a spike in bookings since Monday was evidence of “huge pent-up demand for travel” and said he was “very pleased” the government’s Global Travel Taskforce has been reconstituted to work with industry to “accelerate recovery when it comes”.

He said Abta would be part of industry consultations and was also working “very closely” with destinations on plans for testing, quarantine, and vaccination certificates.

Tanzer also said: “Clearly the government has changed its position on vaccination certificates” from “flatly denying them” a month ago to saying they “will be part of how international travel gets moving again”.

Noting “these are still incredibly tough times for our members”, Tanzer said: “Many companies are facing a continued cash crunch.”

Reiterating calls for sector-specific support he said Abta will be “keeping up the pressure”.

“It’s clear now that a lot of companies are looking at finance options,” he said. “We are in the Atol renewal phase, we’ve got bond renewals – and I’m hoping that news from the prime minister will give confidence to financial partners and regulatory bodies that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that the industry is going to be able to recover quickly because the demand is there, and that financing should be made available to companies at this critical juncture.”

Writing in a blog post published today, Tanzer added: “We are under no illusion there is a lot of work that still needs to be done before people start travelling again and this remains our utmost priority.

“It is also important we continue to make the case for tailored financial support for the sector. With 12 months of lost income, travel remaining at a complete standstill and this year’s ski season and Easter holiday lost to the pandemic, difficult months still lie ahead and we need the government to support the industry through this time.”

But he said it was “encouraging” to hear Boris Johnson on Monday recognise travel, tourism and aviation are among the “hardest-hit” sectors by the pandemic, and reiterated calls to chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend furlough, VAT deferrals, and business rates relief for sectors such as travel that will face a gradual recovery in his Budget next week.

Addressing developments in Scotland, Tanzer called for grants that have been made available to travel firms should be for as long as travel remains off limits for people in Scotland.

He said Abta will work with the other devolved bodies, in Wales and Northern Ireland, on financial support and restart issues in the coming weeks.