Europe’s biggest holiday company has announced all its beach holidays up to and including 14 May have been cancelled.
Tui will now have to refund hundreds of thousands of customers.
Its Marella cruise subsidiary will not operate until at least June.
The company said: “Customers who have a booking impacted by these changes will be able to amend their holiday to any other TUI package holiday on sale for free via manage my booking on our website.”
But holidaymakers who booked through a travel agent have been told to wait for the company to contact them.
Tui said: “Our customer teams are working extremely hard to contact everyone affected, however changes in ways of working and the closure of our retail stores have impacted the speed at which this can happen.”
For tour operators, the main summer holiday season begins in May.
But the coronavirus pandemic has made leisure travel impossible – with little indication of when holidays might be possible.
The Foreign Office has warned against non-essential travel abroad “indefinitely”. Some holidaymakers with bookings for the summer peak have concluded they will be able to get full refunds.
But instead, the decision not to specify an end date means travel firms can legitimately cancel on the day – on the basis that the advice could be lifted at any time.
In practice, holiday companies are issuing “rolling cancellations”: picking a date they hope to start up on, and then contacting customers whose trips have been cancelled.
On Tuesday, Jet2 – second to Tui in the UK for passenger numbers – said it would resume operations on 17 June.
But Tui is more optimistic, setting a date for resumption five weeks from now, and saying: “We, like other travel companies, want to travel again as soon as we possibly can and will do so in line with government advice.”
Tui had planned to launch a river cruise operation in March, but this has now been deferred until 26 November.