Reiswerk, the €523m Dutch pension fund for the travel sector, said it would look into deferring contribution payments, in order to alleviate the burden on the industry posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Frank Radstake, head of social and consumer affairs at industry organisation ANVR, said many travel organisations currently lack the means for the monthly payment of premiums, as travel arrangements are massively being cancelled, while new bookings have dropped by at least 80%.

He said the body tried to keep liquidity in the sector by developing a “corona voucher” for cancellations, which would entitle travellers to book a holiday later, rather than reimburse them directly.

However, Radstake noted that more was required to prevent companies from going bust.

Arnold Jager, the pension fund’s chair, confirmed that Reiswerk had received dozens of requests for deferment of premium payments, which total €3m a month.

He said that granting an industry-wide respite would not be possible just like that, as the rule of “pension rights without payment” still applied.

“So, we need to determine under which conditions we can grant companies deferment, and we must also find out to which extent we can accommodate these requests,” he added.

Radstake said the travel industry had already “massively” applied for a reduction of working hours, and that some organisations had already closed until early April.

Nationwide, 47,000 companies have put in requests for shortening the working week. Radstake noted that payment arrangements could work for a short while, but that more drastic measures are needed if the COVID-19 crisis continues for months.

The Dutch hospitality and catering industry, the culture and events sector, and flower growers are well-known examples of ailing businesses, but many more firms in other sectors are facing bankruptcy.

Addressing the Dutch people last night, prime minister Mark Rutte said the cabinet will do “its utmost to prevent companies from going bust and workers from losing their jobs”.

The cabinet is expected to come up with additional measures later this week.