Hotels could potentially benefit from the plan with students able to help fill skilled job vacancies.

Tourism Accommodation Australia has expressed support for a proposal by the Victorian Government to welcome back international students, both from an economic perspective and to address the ongoing labour shortage in hotels.

A letter written this week from Victorian Acting Premier, James Merlino, to Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announces the state’s intention to allow 120 students each week to enter Victoria for the purposes of study and work. Under the plan, a separate hotel quarantine system would be operated in a way similar to the system which allowed international players at February’s Australian Open tennis tournament to quarantine ahead of the event.

International students have effectively been locked out of Australia since the pandemic began.

Victoria plans to begin its new system from 24 May 2021, accepting 120 arrivals per week in the initial stages. In the letter, it says certain industries light on available workers would be able to contribute financially to the operation of the parallel program, with arrivals then permitted to work in industries including major events or stage and screen productions.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson, said he would be supportive of the plan if arrivals could also be allowed to gain jobs in accommodation and hospitality to ease the worker shortage or if industry employers were willing to contribute to quarantine costs in an effort to secure workers.

Victorian Acting Premier, James Merlino.

Johnson said that in January 2020, just before the pandemic struck, Australia approved 96,480 visas for foreign students to enter Australia, with only 420 visas approved in the same month this year.

Acting Premier Merlino’s letter calls on the Australian Government to support the proposal by continuing to expedite and support the issuance of visas and to ensure arrivals are counted outside of current passenger caps.

Tourism Accommodation Australia National CEO, Michael Johnson.

“International students are a vitally important sector – we have been talking to unis and industry and they’re supportive of this program,” Merlino said.