Backpacker influx welcome, but we want more, says industry

Australia’s hotels, cafes, clubs and bars will see their backpacker ranks swell from this month with the government raising working holiday maker visa caps for a number of nations.

The July 1 increases will see more visas granted to travellers from Greece, Ecuador, Argentina, Malaysia, Singapore and Portugal alongside recent increases in caps for Spain, Israel, Peru and Chile. The age cap for French applicants has also been extended to 35 years.

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”15046″ align=”left”]While the industry has welcomed the move, the Australian Tourism Export Council says Australia has not gone far enough.

Managing director Peter Shelley said: “Back in 2012, ATEC submitted a detailed report to the Government on the economic value of our backpacker market and urged increases to the number of visas, and extending the visa age limit to 35 years.”

“We are pleased to see, seven years on, some positive changes to what is a valuable sector of our international visitation market and welcome the increases announced by the federal government.

“But we offer out this challenge, to bring all our visa agreements into line with those of Canada, Ireland and now France, where applicants can apply for a visa up to 35 years of age.

“This is a valuable market on many fronts, providing labour in regional Australia where there are shortages, spending more than any other international visitor over a greater period, and increasing Australia’s profile in the international marketplace, so working through visa technicalities can have a very positive outcome.”

Australia’s international youth market contributes 25 percent of all visitor arrivals to Australia and 45 per cent of all visitor spend. Some 2.3 million youth visitors to Australia in 2018 spent around $20 billion.

“Given this reality, lifting the age limit to 35 for all applicants would not only give us extra economic benefit, but creates an even greater connection between the WHM and Australia which is likely to see them return again in the future,” said Mr Shelley.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) has welcomed the expansion of the visa program, arguing the changes show the government is listening to industry concerns about labour shortages.

“Each year working holiday makers play a crucial role in Australia’s hotels, restaurants, pubs and taverns,” said TAA Ceo Michael Johnson.

“The expansion of the Working Holiday Maker visa program will incentivise young workers to come to Australia and stay for longer.”

“This will not only deliver a dividend in terms of increasing an important source of labour, but the evidence shows that working holiday makers spend what they earn in Australia and disperse widely throughout Australia’s regional areas.

“Allowing eligible visa holders to access a third year in Australia, increasing the number of visas allocated to our partner counties and raising the eligible age for French applicants to 35 ensures Australia remains an attractive option for young travellers.

“Today’s announcement will help businesses access to the labour they require, allowing them to grow and create more jobs.”

The TAA also wants to see the government do more to attract overseas works Down Under, urging reforms to Australia’s skilled migration program are needed to help address labour shortages throughout the accommodation and hospitality industry.

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