A keynote speaker at this week’s Australian Tourism Export Industry (ATEC) ‘Meeting Place’ in Cairns has proposed the need for the tourism industry to take the lead in rebuilding its critically undermanned workforce by finding its own solutions to the country’s housing crisis.
Simon Kuestenmacher, Director & Co-founder of the preeminent social data analytics advisory service, The Demographics Group, said with workforce challenges across the economy, tourism businesses have to think creatively in looking for ways to attract and keep their workforce.
And that, he said, means investing in solutions to the biggest issue – housing affordability for lower-income workers.
Mr Kuestenmacher’s words echo those of Accommodation Australia (TAA) CEO and interim CEO of the Accommodation Association (AA) , Michael Johnson, who just last week said the biggest issues facing the regions remain staffing and affordable housing for staff.
“It is as equally difficult to find affordable housing for staff as it is to find someone to fill a position,” Mr Johnson said (AccomNews, November 18, 2022).
Mr Kuestenmacher said Australia’s export tourism industry has a strong future with a steady stream of demand from international visitors over the next 50 years.
However, he said, the critical issue is how operators make the most of this growth.
“How do you offer a service to meet this demand without workers? That’s the biggest issue for the tourism industry,” he said.
“Many people who work in the industry – hospitality workers, tour guides, cleaning staff – are overwhelmingly young and often temporary workers and right now tourism businesses are having a tough battle attracting them particularly as these destinations are also the paradise-like hotspots which, since COVID, have become quite expensive to live in.
“The reality is that workers and housing affordability are interconnected and the free market is simply not interested in providing low-income housing at scale leaving employers with the option to look at providing that housing themselves or face a continuing struggle to find staff.
“While it is an additional burden for business and takes a lot of effort, building staff accommodation is not a bad investment and it’s one tourism regions and tourism businesses should band together to undertake in a ‘Titans of Industry’ approach.
Mr Kuestenmacher said Australia currently has a migrant skills shortage of more than 270,000 workers along with the added pressures of retiring baby boomers and millennials having babies “at scale” during COVID.
Over the coming decades Australian tourism exporters will benefit from a growing middle class looking for travel experiences, particularly younger people from markets such as India as well as visiting friends and family of new migrants.
“India has a huge number of young people and there is a great deal of growth left in the middle-class population and these visitors will be looking for the kind of holiday proposition we have to offer.
“We are super safe, convenient, we are a high-tech destination where everything tends to work and there are few things to cause a nuisance to your experience.
“And Australian tourism operators can quit worrying about any post-COVID hangover, the world has moved on and Australia, once again, offers an interesting and enticing brand of outdoor adventure, nature and lifestyle.
“Right now the challenge is to ensure we can deliver against the proposition and if you solve the housing issue you solve the industry’s biggest challenge so providing housing is a good proposition for the tourism industry.”
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