03 May 2012

Australian Working Holiday Visa popularity bucks trend

While sluggish economies in the rest of the world and a rising Australian dollar continue to give the tourism industry cause for concern, Australian Working Holiday Visa applications rose last year as more and more young people escape paltry opportunities in their home countries.

Working Holiday visa

Working Holiday visa holders can stay in Australia for up to two years if they complete 88 days of work in regional Australia.

Figures released by the Australian Youth Tourism Exchange showed that Australian Working Holiday visa holders travelling to New South Wales increased by 2.1% in 2011, compared to a relative decrease across the rest of the country's tourism industry.

The continuing rise in popularity in Working Holiday visas provides a much needed boost to the tourism industry at a time when the strong Australian dollar is discouraging many international tourists and Australia's domestic tourists choose to go abroad and get more value for their money.

The almost anomalous continuing popularity of the Working Holiday visa, for travellers aged between 18 and 30, can be attributed to the fact holders typically don't conform to the average tourist. Studies have shown they stay in Australia for longer, travel wider and visit more remote destinations, expanding the reach of the tourism industry. They are also more likely to visit again.

"The youth market represents strong short-term potential for tourism in Australia, as well as longer term potential through repeat visitation and spreading the message by word-of-mouth and social networking," said Destination NSW chief executive officer Sandra Chipchase.

In an effort to provide even greater relief to a struggling tourism industry, the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) have put forth a proposal to the government to widen the eligibility for the Working Holiday visa.

"Australia stands to make significant economic gains through simple adjustments to the eligibility settings for this visa, benefits that would extend throughout Australia and to many sectors of the economy," said ATEC's managing director Felicia Mariani.

Under current Australia visa rules, a Working Holiday visa's initial 12 month period of validity can be expanded a further 12 months if the holder completes 88 days of work in regional Australia. This work is typically carried out in fruit picking or other agricultural occupations and is a popular option for many holders.

However, ATEC feels the number of areas which qualify as regions where Working Holiday visa holders can extend their trips could be increased, and therefore increase tourism.

"ATEC is strongly advocating for the extension of the regional classification to the tourism industry, allowing WHV holders to extend their visa by 12 months after completing 88 days of work in a regional area and this has benefits that go beyond attracting more young traveller," said Ms Mariani.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australia visa application with the Australian High Commission

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