03 August 2010

Surge in Australian working holiday applications expected

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The Australian backpacker and working holiday industry is expected to see a resurgence later this year after a tough season brought on by the recession in the northern hemisphere.

Australian Working Holiday

The number of Australian working holiday makers are expected to increase later this year.

Australian tourism industry statistics show that initially the backpacker sector was immune to the global financial crisis that began in September 2008, but a year later with unemployment rising in the US and Europe young people who normally travel during a gap year changed plans suddenly.

Australia's biggest backpacker market, Britain, was greatly affected. Of the Australian working holiday makers last year, Brits made up 128,000 of the 591,000 backpackers who visited Australia.

It is believed British youth stayed home because jobs had started to dry up last August and September: the time when they normally would have started travelling. Typically, British backpackers leave in August and September to travel through Asia, before arriving in Australia around April to work for a few months to further fund travel.

The chief executive of the Australian Tourism Export Council, Matt Hingerty, said in the earlier days of the global financial crisis, the backpacker youth market kept the tourism industry ticking over because airfares were so cheap but towards the end of the crisis backpacker numbers started to dwindle.

Hingerty, however, says he is "cautiously optimistic" that backpacker numbers will pick up later in the year particularly as the booming mining industry could be again facing a skills shortage. Traditionally, working holiday makers have been a source of seasonal labour that has aided the economy, not only in fruit picking but also in restaurants and white-collar jobs left vacant by young Australians taking up high-paying mining industry jobs.

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