Shortage of tourist staff at the level of the crisis: operators are looking for “the money of the melon”.

By JULIUS DENNIS

As the NT government is to supply three-quarters of a million dollars to attract fruit pickers mainly to the Top End, tourist operators in the Center also want “melon money” for the desperately understaffed industry.

“If six housekeepers walked through the door, I would open them immediately,” says Martin Sisson, general manager of the Aurora Hotel in Alice Springs.

The hotel is so understaffed that they may not open rooms because they cannot be served on time.

A tourist source says Ayers Rock Resort is short by several hundred employees. The New has not been able to reach a spokesperson so far, but we will keep trying.

While the New was pending with Travel, a message said that accommodation at The Rock is extremely limited until July 15 and travelers should reconsider their dates if they wish to stay consecutive nights and have not yet booked.

According to Martin Sisson: “The difficulty is that people leave at 10 am and others expect to come back at 2 pm and we just can’t get them back fast enough.

“For us the problem is that there are no backpackers, they made up the majority of the housekeeping staff.”

Mr. Sisson says the hotel also lacks three or four receptionists to check in guests.

Hospitality NT CEO Alex Bruce said this recent wave of tourists to Central Australia has highlighted a problem that has been brewing since the industry came back online in August 2020.

“We have lost more and more working holiday visa holders and other non-Australians who were working in our industry.

“With the closure of international borders, they are not being replaced. “

He estimates that there are 2,000 vacancies across the country, “but it’s worse in regional and remote areas.”

At Alice Springs Brewing Co, Kyle Pearson says they became “busy overnight” and found themselves short of staff.

Like Mr. Sisson, he says a void has been left by international workers that will be difficult to fill.

Mr Pearson also says some international workers are actually leaving Alice Springs as travel restrictions loosen in the country: “We have a lot of employees who are leaving us soon to move on.

“I think if things open up, tourists can come in but also staff can go out.”

The brewer, who was hoping to extend the venue’s opening hours this season, said the way these workers were being treated by Australian governments was the start of this problem: “If I’m being honest I think it’s largely because of the lack of support that has been given to visa workers throughout Covid. There was nothing for them, we sent them all home.

“Especially in remote areas, people with temporary visas do a lot of heavy work, they do a lot of work that no one else wants to do.

“We sent them all home and now we’re probably drunk.”

For Fillipo Gelada, whose Outback Elite Tours company offers tours in English, Italian and Spanish, finding good tour guides is a constant, but coming out of Covid he found it even more difficult than usual.

“A lot of tour guides who were working before the arrival of Covid, they moved to other jobs during the Covid period. So what’s happening right now is that most of them won’t come back to do the same job, ”says Gelada.

Mr Bruce says Hospitality NT has worked closely with the government on campaigns to engage with interstate and local people who could fill the necessary jobs.

One example is the “Hospitality Wants You” campaign which was recently launched to encourage local people to maybe find a second job in order to get some extra cash and support the industry.

Mr Bruce says the most in-demand workers are housekeepers and kitchen staff, jobs that in the past have been held by work visa holders and the organization is also working with the government to see “s ‘there are ways to bring in a targeted Covid safe. workers from some of the Pacific island countries, where Covid is not blazing.’

Such a program would be no different from what is being done to help the agricultural industry.

Last week, the NT government announced another program to provide a financial incentive worth $ 745,000 for Australians to come and work on the territory’s melon farms.

This would complement the paychecks with a bonus known as “Melon Money” which mainly benefits the Top End.

Mr Bruce says the tourism industry “wants Melon Money, too,” but the problem may be more difficult than that of the melon growers.

“We are discussing with the territorial government what kind of incentives for locals and interstate workers would be attractive to get them to come and work in our industry this year.”

Across the industry, the work of travelers is laid bare. Mr. Sisson of Aurora Alice Springs says it’s time to appreciate the role of these people in our places of recreation:

“It’s great that people are now traveling across the country, but we just can’t provide the service that we should be able to.

“It’s weird, but it shows how well the backpackers have actually done. “

PHOTO above: Movie stars or fruit pickers? NT Promotion of the government to find workers on farms.

UPDATE 4 p.m .:

Ayers Rock Resort operates only three of its five hotels.

A spokesperson said: “With the upcoming opening of the Desert Gardens Hotel in late June and new experiences such as the opening of the Gallery of Central Australia and the start of the Tali Wiru Sand Dune Top Dinner, we We are seeing a growing interest from coming Australian travelers to explore the spiritual heart of Australia.

“As such, we are now actively looking to recruit staff, which is great news for the tourism industry after 12 difficult months.”


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