November 24, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

A range of peak bodies concerned about the impacts of labour shortages have welcomed Monday’s announcement of the return of working holiday makers (WHMs) to Australia from December 1.

Severe staff shortages have impacted every part of the visitor economy since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.

Tourism operators, hotels and restaurants that have relied on young people on working holidays in the country are relieved that this important source of temporary and casual staff will be reactivated.

The Working Holiday Maker Pilot Working Group, comprising the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), the Backpacker and Youth Travel Advisory Panel (BYTAP), the National Farmers Federation (NFF), Qantas and Tourism Australia, has been working closely with the government over several months to ensure the return of working holiday makers to supplement the workforce of these industries.

ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley said the announcement would help the tourism sector’s ability to service demand from increased travel.

“With so many tourism businesses either downsizing or closing over the past 20 months, many tourism staff have moved on and as we begin to reopen for domestic and international visitors, there will be significant pressure on service quality and capacity in the industry.”

Executive Chair of Tourism at Australian Chamber, John Hart said the announcement was great news ahead of the busy holiday period.

“Working holiday makers are not only some of our highest yielding visitors, spending $3.2 billion a year before COVID, but they make up a substantial part of the very workforce we need right now.

“If we are going to be able to offer Australians the Christmas holiday they deserve this year, we need our backpackers back,” Hart said.

Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully said the return of working holiday makers was another positive step towards rebuilding Australia’s travel and tourism sectors.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a surge in demand for travel internationally and across Australia as states have provided certainty about their reopening plans.

“Flying to a great Australian destination is on top of a lot of people’s travel wish list right now, and these workers play a critical role in ensuring travellers have a great experience when they get there,” Tully said.