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Seven in 10 travel companies plan to cut staff once the UK’s job retention scheme ends, the body that represents the industry has found, prompting the association to urge the government to overhaul its test demands for those arriving into England.

The Travel Association, or Abta, the trade body that represents tour operators and travel agents in the UK, said new summer international holiday bookings for this year are down 83 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile 58 per cent of bookings with departure dates in July or August this year had to be postponed or cancelled.

Almost half of UK travel companies have reported no increase in 2021 bookings compared with last year, despite the success of the country’s vaccination programme, Abta said, quoting details from its members. The UK has vaccinated more than 80 per cent of its eligible UK adults against Covid-19.

The figures out on Tuesday show that 69 per cent of travel businesses with staff on furlough expect to make further redundancies once the government scheme ends this month. That is likely to take job losses to nearly 100,000 in the outbound travel industry, and more than 226,000 once supply chains are taken into account.

“The government’s travel requirements have choked off this summer’s travel trade,” said Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer. It “needs to wake up to the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery”.

Fully jabbed EU citizens have been able to travel within the continent without the need to test for months, a contrast to the expensive and complicated arrangements that have applied in the UK.

The government is due to review the requirements for international travel by October 1 while its furlough scheme that has helped protect many jobs is due to end this month.

Abta urged the government to scrap its three-tier system for a simpler way of treating all destinations as open by default, retaining a short red list to manage known variants of concern.

It called on the government to scrap its demands for fully vaccinated travellers to the UK to take a PCR test, which is mandatory at present for anybody entering into England from abroad, even from lower risk countries.

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