BY JAMES WILKINSON
Leading industry bodies Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) and the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) have welcomed the Australian Government’s expanded Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme to include hotels.
The program, involving East Timorese workers, has been successfully operating for the horticulture industry and it will now be expanded to include Broome’s accommodation operators on a trial basis.
TAA Managing Director Rodger Powell said it was pleasing to see the Australian Government was addressing the issue of labour shortages in the accommodation industry.
“Without a doubt the biggest concern of employers in the accommodation sector is labour,” he said. “Without people to do the work a business can’t reach its potential and this is something that has been holding back hotels in many parts of the country.
“Our members in Broome will be able to access temporary workers from East Timor during times when labour is in short supply. This will help these businesses meet demand for their services.
“If the pilot is successful in tourism as it has been in horticulture, we look forward to seeing it expanded to some of the many other tourist regions in Australia struggling to find adequate labour.”
The scheme was also welcomed by TTF Chief Executive John Lee, who said the trial is a positive step in addressing the nation’s labour shortage issues for tourism operators.
“There are currently 36,000 job vacancies in the tourism industry and this trial will help accommodation providers to fill those roles,” he said.
“Tourism operators are having trouble finding staff, especially in regional areas, where they are competing with the mining sector for available labour (and) the announcement is a breakthrough which acknowledges the problems tourism operators are facing.
“This is an issue TTF has been concerned about for some time and we congratulate the government on today’s announcement,” he said.
While the pilot scheme is a positive step, Lee said the Australian Government still needed to address the issue further on a national basis.
“As a service industry, tourism is labour intensive, but it cannot compete with the wages being offered by the resources sector,” he said.
“The shortage of staff means tourism operators cannot offer the high service standards tourists expect, which affects the overall quality of Australia’s tourism offering and reduces the attractiveness of our product.
“Australian tourism cannot compete on price with other destinations in our region, so we have to ensure we offer quality accommodation options, unique experiences and excellent service to deliver value for money for consumers.
“That is central to creating a positive public perception of Australian tourism, which is vital to attracting visitors from home and abroad,” Lee said.