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Gov't identifies tourism skills shortage

Gov't identifies tourism skills shortage

The tourism sector is struggling to alleviate its skills shortage, which in many respects has emerged as a result of the resources boom.

Minister for tourism Martin Ferguson and minister for skills Chris Evans have therefore established the Tourism and Hospitality Skills and Workforce Development Project to help fill these positions.

The tourism sector already employs a large amount of migrant workers, but as Mr Ferguson identified at a recent Queensland Tourism Industry Council breakfast, these numbers still need to be increased.

Several initiatives have been put in place to address the problem, including the introduction of the three-year Seasonal Worker Program, which got underway on July 1.

This involves bringing workers over from the Pacific and East Timor to support accommodation providers during the high season in five major tourist regions.

Mr Ferguson also noted that discussions are underway regarding the extension of the Working Holiday Maker Visa to tourism employees - this is something the immigration minister is yet to decide on.

"Tourism is a labour intensive industry, to lift productivity and service quality we need to continue to invest in its people," said Mr Ferguson after his latest announcement.

He identified that there are currently 36,000 vacancies in the tourism business, which need to be filled either through local labour or migrants.

Several tourism hotspots in need of assistance have been identified by the government, including Kangaroo Island, Victoria, Tropical North Queensland, regional Tasmania, Sydney and Canberra.

However, as one recent report argued, visas need to be made more accessible to foreign workers if these skills gaps are to be successfully filled.

As migration agents will no doubt be aware, the application process can often be very difficult for overseas workers.

Taleb Rifai has explained to a tourism conference in Melbourne that the current system is unsustainable and that people are struggling to get the paperwork they need to enter Australia.

Individuals from China and India are facing the biggest problems in light of these "overpriced entry formalities", which as far as Mr Rifai is concerned have no real grounds.

"There is no evidence to establish that there are close and very strong links between visas and security issues," he is reported by The Australian as saying.

As the tourism minister has identified, new workers are vital for making sure that new projects are delivered on time and that the sector can continue to live up to demand for its services.


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