19 March 2009

Australian working holidays to QLD grow in numbers

While Australia is experiencing an overall downturn in the tourism industry because of the global economic conditions, results show that the Sunshine State is holding up well because of a strong performance from the Australia working holiday market.

In the first quarter of this year, numbers of Australian working holiday visa grants through the Australian Visa Bureau have increased by 20 per cent when compared with 2008, and tourism operators in Queensland are coming to depend on the constantly growing backpacker market.

Amanda Grispke from the Australian Visa Bureau predicts that 2009 will be the biggest year for Australian working visa grants, particularly while employment opportunities in the UK's recession are becoming few and far between.

Anthony Hayes, CEO of Tourism Queensland, confirmed in a statement that while the visitor numbers to Queensland decreased 5.6 per cent to just over two million, expenditure and nights had increased.

"International visitors spent $4 billion in Queensland during 2008, nine percent more than during the previous year, and stayed 40.6 million nights, up 12 percent on last year," Mr Hayes said.

Mr Hayes contributed these results to the continued growth of the backpacker market, which has become more popular among young British skilled workers struggling to kick-start their careers in the UK during the recession.

"Much of this increase can be credited to backpackers and foreign students, who -  although only making up 18 and five percent of international visitors, respectively – typically stay a lot longer and spend more overall on their trip than others.

"The decrease in the Aussie dollar means that backpackers can stretch their money further – so they are staying longer in Australia and travelling more widely, often to destinations they would not otherwise have visited,” Mr Hayes said.

Queensland received 362,000 backpackers and 99,000 foreign students during 2008, which is an increase of two and nine per cent respectively, and the number of nights stayed by backpackers and foreign students increased by 11 and 30 per cent respectively.

While backpackers and working holidaymakers are typically on strict budgets, they contribute more to the tourism industry by staying longer on their holiday, with Australia working holiday visa holders making up 12 per cent of all international visitor nights to Queensland. 

The number of Australian working holiday visa holders increased by 13 per cent, and the nights stayed also increased by 18 per cent.  European and Canadian backpacker numbers were particularly strong with 40,000 Germans (up 8 per cent), 21,000 Scandinavians (up 5 per cent), 19,000 Canadians (up 12 per cent), 17,000 French (up 21 per cent) and 10,000 Dutch (up 11 per cent) visiting Queensland during 2008.

During the course of that year, 133,000 backpackers had visited the Gold Coast (up 3 per cent); 239,000 visited Brisbane (up 6 per cent); 106,000 visited the Sunshine Coast (up 3 per cent); 14,000 visited the Outback (up 8 per cent); 58,000 visited Central Queensland (up 2 per cent); and 31,000 visited Gladstone (up 7 per cent).

Australian working holidaymakers are arriving in the country at a positive time; recent research from the Australia Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) shows that young entry-level workers in Australia are easily kick-starting their careers.  AAGE's study included 200 employers who indicated that there are a number of shortages for skilled workers in entry-level occupations, and there are more vacancies this year for university-leavers in 12 out of the 14 key industries and business sectors.

"The past six years have seen a real boom in vacancies and the opportunities for graduates - 2008 was certainly the best recruiting season in Australia for a decade," Ben Reeves, AAGE's chief executive, said.

Graduate salaries are also looking positive, with starting pay checks reaching an average of $51,750 (£24,200) in their first year of employment.

While the Government has taken steps this week to reduce the number of people emigrating to Australia through the General Skilled Migration Program (GSMP) from 133,500 to 115,000, the Australian working holiday program remains uncapped.  This means that an unlimited number of people can apply for an Australia working holiday visa and supplement travel with temporary work in any job they wish (so long as the term of employment does not exceed six months).  During their employment, if the Australia working visa holder wishes to stay on permanently in Australia, they can apply through the employer-nomination skilled migration program, which is much faster than the GSMP.

Ben Reeves, AAGE's chief executive, said that the Australia working visa is becoming a more attractive option for young British skilled workers.

"It's a popular option for UK graduates and can, under the right circumstances, lead to permanent employment," Mr Reeves said.  "They come to Australia, spend time travelling, start working as temps and find they like it."

Working holidaymakers can also apply for a second working holiday visa if they work in regional Australian in the horticultural or construction industries for three months or more. 

If an Australia working holiday is appealing to you, and you would like to find out if you are eligible for the program, take the online assessment test through the Australian Visa Bureau website.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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