The tourism industry is hoping a trial of importing seasonal workers can be expanded to fill thousands of vacant jobs.
As the resources sector swallows up workers enticed by high wages, the tourism industry is crying out for people to fill the shortfall in staff, estimated to be about 36,000 positions.
To combat this, the federal government has approved a three-year trial that will allow tourism accommodation providers to employ seasonal labour from Pacific countries and East Timor.
During the initial trial phase, 12 East Timorese have been brought in to work in Broome, in northern WA.
However Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) spokesman Rowan Barker said this figure would need to be significantly expanded to support operators.
“When they announced it initially we were keen for them to expand it further,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to address the shortages we’re still facing. The argument at the moment would be there is 36,000 job vacancies around the country in tourism.”
Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said it was important to ensure the $35 billion dollar tourism industry could find workers.
“Ensuring the tourism industry has the workforce it needs when it needs it, can be the difference between a regional area having services open or closed to the public during peak season,” he said in a statement.
“This trial is just one part of the Australian Government’s efforts through Tourism 2020 to help meet labour shortages and build a highly-skilled tourism industry.”
Mr Barker said that people who traditionally worked in tourism and related industries could double their wages by working in the resources sector.
“Cooks and chefs and cleaners are making way more money than they can in tourism if they’re prepared to go and work in a mining community,” he said.
Mr Barker said one of the other challenges was finding people prepared to work for limited periods of time.
“Coming into winter you look at the snow – they need that many more people during winter than they do in summer,” he said.
“It’s difficult to find people who are willing to only work for four or five months at a time.”