Christine Flatley
(Australian Associated Press)

The head of Flight Centre has warned it could be three years before international travel returns to pre-coronavirus levels.

Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner says government policy around COVID-19 restrictions will determine how quickly the domestic industry bounces back, but those eyeing an overseas holiday will likely wait a lot longer.

“It’s really up to the government on this sort of thing, and if they ease restrictions it will come back fairly quickly,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“Maybe 18 months to two years (international travel) might be back to 70 per cent, but it’ll probably be three years before it’s back to pre-COVID levels.”

Mr. Turner said the current policy requiring any returning international travellers to self-fund a two-week quarantine period in a hotel is a major deterrent.

He said other protocols – such as pre-testing travellers and then re-testing them upon entry into Australia – could be put in place instead.

“I think the protocols, pretty soon, will be to the stage where it will be probably nearly as safe as a two-week quarantine in a hotel,” he said.

Flight Centre has stood down around 16,000 staff globally since the pandemic emerged at the start of the year.

Other major tourism players, such as Virgin and Qantas, have also been forced to shed thousands of staff as flights are grounded.

Mr. Turner called on the federal government to either continue the JobKeeper wage subsidy program for the industry, or to implement a new scheme to help keep it afloat.

“I think it will be necessary, not just for travel, but for airlines and all tourism operators… otherwise hundreds of thousands of jobs are going to be permanently lost for sure.”