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Backpackers Wanted!!
Old 2nd August 2010, 01:29 PM   #1
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Backpackers wanted

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Australia's backpacker industry is hoping for a resurgence later this year after enduring a tough winter brought on by the economic recession in the northern hemisphere.

"Everybody's hoping that in September we'll bounce back," says the publisher of the backpacker website thumbrella.com.au, Martin Lane. "It's been a tough winter for most of the [backpacker] sector. Certainly the people I've spoken to all say the same thing: that the numbers are fairly significantly down."
Tourism industry statistics show that the backpacker sector was, at first, relatively immune to the global financial crisis that began in September 2008.

But a year later, as unemployment rose in the US and Europe, the backpacker "pipeline" slowed to a trickle as young people who would normally travel during a gap year changed plans suddenly.
Anecdotal evidence in the past few months suggests the slowdown has been severe in Australia's biggest backpacker market, Britain, which last year supplied 128,000 of the 591,000 backpackers who travelled Down Under.
Lane says British gap-year students stayed home because of economic circumstances last August and September when they normally would have started travelling.

"In April this year [when those backpackers would have been arriving here after travelling through Asia], that really started to hit Australia."

In the past few years Australia has relied on foreign backpackers not just to fill hostels, but to pick fruit, staff restaurants and even take white-collar jobs as the high-paying mining industry attracted young Australian workers.

The chief executive of the Australian Tourism Export Council, Matt Hingerty, says: "In the earlier days of the GFC, the backpacker youth market kept the [tourism] industry ticking over because airfares were so cheap.
"The kids had saved up anyway and a lot of them didn't have jobs to go to [at home]. So they thought, ‘Bugger it,we're going to travel.'

"But it tailed off towards the end [of the GFC] because a lot of them had travelled and the [home] jobs started to dry up."

Hingerty, however, says he is "cautiously optimistic" that backpacker numbers will pick up later in the year.
At the same time, the booming mining industry could again be facing a skills shortage, which is likely to affect the rest of the economy as well.
"We're very worried about that," Hingerty says.
"But the backpackers will be part of the answer to fill those jobs."

Lane says the backpacker industry needs to persuade prospective travellers that they have a better chance of finding a job in Australia than Britain.

"The challenge for the industry is to connect the backpackers to the jobs so they'll come here and stay longer," Lane says.


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