Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner says it's inevitable "the odd person" will die as borders reopen and international travel ramps up, but that we should focus on the "positive things".
He emphasised the importance of widespread vaccination in making international travel safe.
Speaking on The AM Show, Turner said the COVID-19 pandemic had been "far worse than anyone expected, particularly in this part of the world".
He also defended recent comments made by Virgin Australia boss Jayne Hrdlicka, who was criticised for saying borders should open as soon as possible even though "some people may die".
"Inevitably, as international travel comes back, the virus will become endemic, and some people will catch it just like the flu," Turner said.
"In Australia I think 2000 people a year on average die from the flu, so it's going to happen, but we should be focusing on the positive things rather than the odd person might catch it and die. If you don't want to get sick and hospitalised and die, then you've got to get vaccinated."
Turner said New Zealand's slow rate of vaccination was a major problem.
"It's the only thing that is going to count in the long run, particularly for international travel, vaccinations are going to be everything."
He said Flight Centre's businesses in the US and the UK are recovering well due to the vaccination rate, but things are taking longer on this side of the world.
"In Australia and New Zealand over the next six or eight months I think you'll start to see some of these so called travel bubbles, safe travel zones opening to places like Singapore," Turner said.
"It could even happen to places like the UK and the US in the next six months, but generally it will be from November through June that you'll see more opening up, but it's all about the vaccination programme."
Turner said while there's currently no international standard for a 'vaccination passport', it's just a matter of time; but regardless of how it's monitored, one thing is certain if people want to travel internationally again.
"You're going to have to be vaccinated," he said.