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9,000 Tourism Jobs Have Been Lost In Cairns During The Covid-19 Pandemic

Posted by Emily Ridley

It has been reported that 9,000 tourism jobs have been lost in Cairns since the start of the covid-19. The total number of lost jobs make up for half of the local industry’s workforce.

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic the tourism industry in the Cairns region was more 2.5 billion annually.

Mark Olsen the chief executive of Tourism Tropical North Queensland has said that the regions tourism industry employed 15,750 full and parttime works before the covid-19 pandemic began.

However, as a result of the discontinuation of the federal government’s JobKeeper program, many workers have had no choice but to leave the tourism industry for good in hopes of finding a higher paying and more reliable job.

“Without international visitation, we’ve lost about 9,000 staff over the last 22 months. At first it was the frontline staff, those on the part-time and casual roles, but as the pandemic extended on, we started losing highly skilled staff,” says Mark Olsen the chief executive of Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

“Even in the last few weeks, we’ve seen businesses have to stand down some of their most senior staff because the cash flow is so tight. We’ve lost a lot of skill and experience that has guided the region, which has been one of the most successful tourism destinations, over the last 30 years,” continued Mr. Olsen.

On Saturday 22nd January, the Queensland Government introduced quarantine-free international travel for fully-vaccinated tourists who were wanting to visit Queensland.

However, it is expected that a huge influx of international tourists will not become a common occurrence for at least the next few months. This is due to the Australian Government’s decision to limit the number of overseas arrivals to mainly just to returning Australian residents, working visa holidays and international students.

Cairns restaurant owner Craig Squire says that the recent Christmas holiday period wasn’t very busy for his business as he had a number of workers unable to work due to covid-19.

“The first week of January, we had five staff out waiting on test results, so that really put a dampener on what would have been a quite a successful trading week. We had to close for several days because we just didn’t have enough staff to operate the business. It’s been a terrible January, there’s big losses,” says Craig Squire.

Mr. Squire has highlighted that the vaccination mandate has been frustrating to enforce and having to turn away unvaccinated customers has meant that he has lost even more money.

“The concept that the unvaccinated can’t go to restaurants and cafes but can go to gyms and hairdressers and food courts, even licensed food courts, it just doesn’t stick. It basically started as a coercive measure to get more people vaccinated, we’re at 90 percent fully vaccinated in Cairns now so surely, we can let go of that. It’s not stopping the spread of covid,” says Cairns restaurant owner Craig Squire.

Restaurants Across Australia Are Fighting Over Workers To Keep Their Businesses Running

Some restaurants across Australia have resorted in poaching workers from rival hospitality venues by offering them a higher pay rise to keep their business operating. Furthermore, a number of hospitality establishments across Australia have been forced to close temporarily for the first time since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.

The fast-spreading Omicron variant has left many industries, especially the hospitality industry in economic disarray as thousands of workers have either tested positive to covid-19 or been required to isolate as a result of being a close contact of a positive case.

A trickle of international students and temporary workers back into the country after border closures has also exacerbated staff shortages for a number of businesses, while others that manage to stay open are operating on a knife edge.

For a number of venues who have been had a large percentage of their employees being unavailable to work due to covid-19 isolation requirements, the trading hours of many hospitality venues is dependent on how many people are available to work at that given time of day or night.

Furthermore, many hospitality venues are noticing an increase in rude customers who are complaining about the wait times for them to receive their meals as there are less employees available to work in the kitchen. As a result of this meals are taking longer than usual to be made for customers.

“That’s why I always ask the customers before they order food if they don’t mind waiting as we catch up with orders due to staff shortages. Please be kind with the hospitality industry right now. We are trying our best to serve you,” says Hana Tania, owner of Indonesian restaurant Ayam Ria Penyet.

Hana Tania reveals that some restaurants had also resorted to poaching staff with offers of better pay.

“Let’s say we were already offering a rate based on the standard award, but a fine-dining restaurant could offer them $35 an hour to wash dishes. Many restaurant owners that I know told me that they can’t compete with them. A couple of restaurant owners have even offered to give their staff a few hundred bucks extra if they can refer and bring their friends to work,” says Hana Tania.

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