As tourism operators prepare for an influx of travellers with NSW and Victoria coming out of lockdown and other states make plans to reopen, one in four businesses from the sector say they have insufficient staff to cater for pent-up demand, according to new research from the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF).
The national survey of over 500 businesses – from both tourism and other industry sectors – conducted by Newgate Research for TTF, shows that one in three tourism-reliant businesses let staff go during the pandemic and were now struggling to fill positions to cater for their customers.
TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said the lack of working holidaymakers, students and skilled visa holders is largely responsible for the skills gap, and the federal government needs to fast track their return urgently via the easing of restrictions if businesses are to have enough staff to cover the peak summer holiday period.
“After losing over 600,000 staff during the pandemic, the lack of skilled staff is increasingly becoming the number one issue for tourism operators large and small,” she said.
The research reveals the huge gulf between tourism exposed businesses and businesses from other industries of which less than 10 per cent had let staff go during COVID-19, compared to a third of operators from the visitor economy.
Over 50 per cent of tourism-related respondents to the survey also said that a lack of skilled labour has a medium to high impact on their business, while only a quarter from other industries felt the same way.
“The ongoing uncertainty around domestic and international borders is a key factor, with seven out of 10 tourism operators rating it their number one issue in not having enough staff, followed by the lack of available staff cited by five out of 10 respondents,” Osmond said.
“The tourism industry has faced the fight of its life over the last 18 months, but as we come out of lockdown and restrictions start to ease, this is an issue that needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.
“With international borders opening in NSW and Victoria quarantine free on November 1 for fully-vaccinated returning Australians, the federal government must make the return of international students, working holidaymakers and skilled workers next cab off the rank.
“If we are to be ready for the return of international visitors, hopefully by year’s end, filling the skills gap is critical to hastening the recovery.”