Australian tourism: out of money, out of workers and out of rooms


The latest national study by the Tourism and Transport Forum says that the Australian tourism industry will have a tough time trying to compete with Asian rivals.

As tourists flock to Australia in record numbers, the industry is facing a critical shortage of skilled workers, while investors are hitting a brick wall when getting financing from banks. There is also a shortage of rooms – a problem that has plagued Brisbane for years.

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State government data shows almost 3 million passengers moved through Queensland airports in July. But TTF said about 60 percent of the industry claimed increased taxes, like the $55 passenger movement charge for international visitors was holding back the industry.

The tax increases rated second to the exchange rate as an issue for the industry, however, the high dollar seems to have little impact on Chinese tourists who continue to pour into Australia.

The industry has also estimated that there were about 36,000 job vacancies nationally for everything from bar staff through to high-skilled restaurant workers, and wages were not comparable to those available in the mining sector.

One Mackay eatery has even been forced to build accommodation for staff in order to make working in the city affordable.

Queensland Hotels Association Chief Executive Justin O’Connor said the staff and room shortages were particularly acute in the mining areas.

TTF Chief Executive John Lee said there had been a sharp jump in the industry’s concerns over access to bank financing, which impacts operators’ ability to invest in new and refreshed rooms.

The impact also appeared to be getting worse.

Mr. Lee said there was a the number of industry operators who could also employ more people but was falling because forward bookings were declining.

“All these elements combine to reduce the competitiveness of Australia as a tourism destination, which is of particular concern to leisure-dependent regional destinations, which are trying to compete with low-cost, Asia-Pacific rivals.

“Despite the concerns, operators believe conditions will improve in the current quarter, with expectations for domestic tourism up 10 points and international up 4 points, although performance is expected to remain below average for this time of year,” Mr. Lee said.

Domestic tourism is also back in favor with Australians who appear to now be embracing local travel again.

The TTF survey showed there had been 9 months of improved domestic sentiment in the industry, while there had been a dip in sentiment in the international sector.