Returning backpackers increase hospitality staff shortages, but it’s not enough, say business owners

Business is bustling in the tourist town of Rainbow Beach in southeast Queensland, but a local restaurant owner said without international workers they couldn’t keep their doors open.

Leanne Modin has lived in Rainbow Beach for 30 years and owns three hotel businesses in town, but never imagined she would have so many customers.

“I have a staff member who works 70 hours a week,” she said.

Ms Modin had already reduced opening hours due to staff shortages, which continue to cripple small businesses across the country.

She said after being understaffed for 15 months, returning backpackers are finally helping to fill the void.

“For a company that has 30 employees, having seven international ones is a big thing,” Ms. Modin said.

“After Christmas we will be seriously sitting down and probably considering closing two days a week just so that when we are open we have well rested staff.”

The company depends on chance encounters for recruitment, like an employee finding three backpackers looking for temporary work at a recent party.

“If we hadn’t had these girls, we wouldn’t have been able to cope,” Ms Modin said.

“Where are all the Australian workers? Why is it so difficult after COVID?

“Everyone has stopped working in the hotel industry; Where did they go ?

“They must have gone somewhere, but everyone is fighting for the workers, not just the hospitality.”

The return of the backpackers

More than 100,000 Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas have been granted since July, more than the figures for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and double that of 2020-2021.

Over the past six months, the number of WHM visas granted is on track to match pre-COVID levels.

Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Suresh Manickam said the rise in the number of international workers has helped struggling hospitality businesses keep their doors open.

However, she says more action is needed from the federal government to address the staffing shortages plaguing the nation.

“We need to make up for two years of zero immigration to the country,” Ms Manickham said.

“Along with this, we need more support to help local Australians find hospitality jobs, get the training they need and help them navigate careers that pay great wages. , amazing opportunities and flexible working hours.”

Ms Manickam said the federal government needed to process visas more quickly as staff shortages remained particularly severe in remote and regional areas.

Leave a Comment