Hotels are cutting back on available rooms due to critically low staff shortages in some places.

Hoteliers in some areas are now dreading peak and busy periods as they don’t have enough staff to maintain expected service levels, a Federal Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Migration has been told.

Speaking before Australian Government Senators and Members in Canberra recently, Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson, said the situation was now so dire in places that some hotels were reducing their available inventory over peak periods.

Johnson said the situation is worse in regional areas, with hotel operators forced to “beg, borrow and steal” chefs and cooks to meet basic service levels.

Hotels were being forced to beg and borrow staff wherever they can to meet service levels.

Alongside the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), TAA says it was seeking the roles of Cooks and Chefs to be added to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, with Hospitality to be listed as a critical sector for the subclass 408 Temporary Activity Visa.

Furthermore, the Associations said that when international students are allowed to return, those working in hospitality should be permitted to work more than 40 hours per fortnight, with working holidaymakers permitted to remain with the same employer for more than six months in rural and regional parts of Australia.

Johnson added that over the recent Easter holiday, some Sydney hotels stopped selling rooms as they didn’t have the available staff to service them.

Tourism Accommodation Australia National CEO, Michael Johnson.

“In an odd way it’s almost lucky Sydney occupancies are currently so low as we don’t have the skills set to meet demand,” Johnson added.

A recent survey conducted by the AHA revealed that nearly three in every four businesses were suffering due to a shortage in skilled workers, with more than 60% of these specifically requiring chefs.

The calls come at the same time as New Zealand was once again accepting and processing working holidaymaker visa applications from citizens of 14 countries, provided they were already in Australia, to help alleviate the skills shortage among the tourism and hospitality sector.

TAA has listed a number of reforms required to make the situation easier for hotel operators.

AHA Chief Executive, Stephen Ferguson, said that while the preference would always be to hire Australian workers, action was needed to increase the number of overseas workers as in many areas, a skilled labour force did not exist.

“Some of our most successful hotel groups are currently more than 50% down on job applications for the same time last year – this is at the same time as we have an unemployment rate of more than 5%,” Ferguson said.

“But the reality is the local workers wanting to do jobs like chefs and front-line staff simply aren’t there in many areas.”