Industry needs 123,000 more workers by 2020: report

04 November, 2015 by
Danielle Bowling

In order to meet the needs of the growing industry, Australia’s tourism and hospitality sector will require an additional 123,000 workers by 2020, the 2015 Australian Tourism Labour Force Report has found.

The report estimated that inbound travel would grow by six percent annually from 2015-2020, with the number of international visitors growing from the current 7.2 million to over 10 million by 2023-24.

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Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) said the report identified that there would be a need for 60,000 skilled positions, requiring a major lift in local recruitment and training as well as a relaxation in temporary skilled migration provisions including 457 visas and working holiday visas.

The last Australian Tourism Labour Force Report was conducted in 2011, under the direction of then Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, who is now chair of Tourism Accommodation Australia. He said “Since 2011, the pace of development in the tourism and hotel sector has increased significantly and while some positive progress has been made in recruitment and retention, supply of skilled labour is not keeping up with demand.

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“The TRA survey identified a large increase in the proportion of businesses reporting skills deficiencies, growing from 50 percent of businesses in 2011 to 69 percent in 2015, and while NSW and Victoria reported the highest volume of skills shortages, all states and territories were affected with Northern Territory and Western Australia particularly vulnerable to skilled labour shortages,” he said.

Australia is undergoing its most rapid period of hotel development, with over 70 hotels and some 10,000 rooms under construction or in advanced stages of planning. 

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“The massive growth in hotel development will put particular strains on the industry because Australia is competing in an increasingly competitive world tourism market and there is a critical need to enhance service standards,” Ferguson said.

“It is important for the industry to ‘grow its own’ and invest in training and career development, and we need to place greater emphasis on attracting more mature aged, youth and Indigenous Australians into the industry.”

Ferguson said that since the last Tourism Labour Force report, the rate of dependence on overseas workers has dropped from 13 percent of the total workforce to 10 percent and argued that with sich an “unprecedented pipeline” of new hotel development and increasing international demand, governments need to be flexible, especially in regards to temporary skilled workers.

R&CA CEO John Hart said the report is a sobering reminder of one of the greatest challenges facing the hospitality sector.  

“Skills shortages slow productivity and dampen growth prospects. We are an expensive aspirational tourist destination. We must deliver exceptional visitor experiences and customer service to meet the expectations of discerning international visitors. We will fail if we do not have appropriately skilled workers to deliver these experiences.

“Without an available source of skilled and unskilled labour the sector will struggle to reach its target of doubling overnight visitor expenditure to $140 billion by 2020,” Hart said.

Hart said the caf, restaurant and catering sector has experienced increased shortages in skilled labour, with chefs and cooks the most difficult positions to fill.

“R&CA’s 2015 Industry Benchmarking Report revealed an increase in the number of businesses experiencing ‘extreme’ difficulty filling positions, up from 22.3 percent to 24.6 percent. There was also a decrease in the number of businesses indicating they were experiencing ‘no difficulties’ finding staff.

“Department of Employment projections indicate that employment growth in the caf, restaurant and takeaway food services sector is expected to reach 16.9 percent or 93,600 jobs by November 2019. This is double the employment growth projected to November 2018. Hospitality businesses will be hardest hit by labour shortages,” he said.