The travel industry will take three years to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and will never be the same with enforced testing before and after flights.
Flight Centre CEO Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner said how quickly the domestic industry rebounds will depend on government policy on Wednesday.
Mr Turner said replacing two-week travel quarantines with enforced coronavirus testing before and after flights was one way travel levels could be increased quickly.
‘It’s really up to the government on this sort of thing, and if they ease restrictions it will come back fairly quickly,’ Mr Turner told ABC radio.
A woman is tested for coronavirus after getting off a flight. Pre and post-flight testing will replace quarantine, according to Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner
‘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.’
Currently, overseas travellers arriving in Australia and many other countries are required to self-fund a two-week quarantine period in a hotel.
Mr Turner believes quarantine deters people from travelling and says pre-testing travellers and then re-testing them upon entry 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 attendants wearing PPE on a Qatar Airways plane. Mr Turner said it will take three years for the travel industry to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic
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 start 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,’ he said.
Mr Turner’s travel industry prediction comes after the first ‘trans-Tasman travel bubble’ flights between Australia and New Zealand were cancelled
Mr Turner (pictured) called on the federal government to either continue the JobKeeper wage subsidy program for the industry, or start a new scheme to help keep it afloat
The first flight over the Tasman Sea was set to leave from Canberra for Wellington on Tuesday but was cancelled after the rapid increase in community-transmitted infections in Victoria, with the state recording 64 new cases on Tuesday.
Managing director of Canberra Airport Stephen Byron told NCA NewsWire flights will now be planned for the end of July.
‘The nature of the return of the virus into Melbourne, together with continuing discussions with governments in Australia and New Zealand has meant we’ve pushed back flights,’ he said.
Mr Byron said 4,000 travelers have expressed interest in crossing the Tasman.
‘People do want to travel between Australia and New Zealand, people want to come home, so both ways, and they want to do it without quarantine,’ he said.
Qantas planes grounded at Sydney Airport. The airline recently sacked 6,000 workers while Flight Centre has let go of 16,000 staff globally