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Tourism needs labour and skills

Tourism needs labour and skills
September 8, 2011

Australia's tourism industry is suffering from enormous labour and skills shortages which a guest worker scheme and an extension of the Working Holiday Maker visa could help to ameliorate, according to ATEC Managing Director, Felicia Marian.

Mariani welcomed reports that the Federal Tourism Minister planned to look at ways to extend the guest worker scheme to include the hospitality industry as a way of meeting the huge shortfall in labour experienced by tourism operators nationwide.

Mariani explained "our industry is suffering from all of the same pressures many other industries are facing a high Australian dollar, the introduction of the carbon price and severe shortages in labour and skills as a result of the mining boom.

"Regional tourism operators are hindered by labour shortages at every skill level and there are not the workers available in local communities to meet that need."

Mariani said most tourism businesses ran on very low profit margins and the high dollar was making a holiday in Australia even more expensive, leaving no room for increased pricing.

"With our unemployment rate hovering around 5%, it is a big challenge for the tourism industry to attract workers as they can't afford to pay the wages being offered in the mining sector.

"In order to pay more, tourism businesses would need to significantly increase their charges and in the current environment that is just not sustainable.

"Bringing in more workers from overseas, either through a guest worker program or by allowing young Working Holiday Maker travellers an extension to their visa by working in regional hospitality, would be obvious ways to help the tourism industry meet its labour needs.

"These kinds of programs wouldn't be taking jobs from the Australian workforce because the industry has been trying to cope with an ever diminishing labour force for a number of years."

The tourism industry contributes $34 billion to the Australian economy or 2.6% of GDP a year and employs more than half a million people. Tourism is important to many regional economies with many reliant on tourism to keep their communities alive.

Mariani concluded "the skills and labour shortage in the tourism industry is debilitating and threatening the very future of the industry.

"Australia can't afford to lose the economic contribution of the tourism sector and I congratulate Minister Ferguson on his willingness to engage this issue and find a solution."

ATEC has called for changes to the working holiday visa arrangements including extending the definition to allow travellers to stay an extra year in return for taking work in a regional tourism area, an increase in the age limits and allowing young people to apply for the visa a second time.

Image: Members of Dreamworld's staff team. Image courtesy of Dreamworld. 

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