Transport secretary Gregg Shapps has come under fire from hospitality insiders over comments made earlier during a radio interview.
Shapps suggested people should not yet book summer holidays for later this year during an interview on the Today programme.
Speaking on Radio 4, he said: ““In the shorter term, on your travel advice, should you book your holidays, clearly people will want to see what the trajectory of this disease is in the next few weeks.
“We have just started to see a flattening of that daily, tragic curve that shows the deaths each day
“We are not seeing declines yet.
“I will not be booking a summer holiday at this point, let us put it that way.”
Following uproar over the comment, a spokesman for the prime confirmed that travelling within the UK for holidays was also “not something which the current guidelines allow for”.
Reacting, the Association of Independent Tour Operators brand the comments “ill-thought-through”.
A spokesman added: “The minister’s ill-considered and flippant comment on Radio 4 this morning shows his total disregard for the travel and holiday sector and the millions working within the industry.
“Shapps owes us not only a retraction, and an apology, but also – very importantly – some long overdue practical assistance, which has been sorely lacking to date.”
An ABTA spokesman echoed the condemnation, and argued the comments were not based on any facts about what we know today about the future of the pandemic.
He added: “It shows complete disregard for the UK travel industry, the hundreds of thousands of people it employs and the struggle it is facing in this current crisis.
“It would be better if the government focused on taking the necessary steps to support the sector rather than undermining confidence in it.”
Consumer rights organisation added that the latest comments were like to add confusion to an already challenging situation.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “The government’s comments suggesting that people shouldn’t be booking summer holidays will only add further confusion to the lack of clear guidance around what the lockdown means for future travel plans, which has left people battling to get refunds for cancelled trips as struggling holiday firms and airlines disregard the law.”
He added: “To bring an end to some of the uncertainty around refunds, rebooking and insurance claims, all Foreign Office travel warnings against non-essential travel should be extended to a definitive date.
“The government must also urgently produce a plan to support the travel industry through this crisis and ensure consumers’ money and future travel plans are protected.”