More Backpackers Get Work-Holiday Visas

More backpackers get work-holiday visas

The Age (Melbourne)
July 24, 2007 – 12:24PM

A record number of backpackers have received Australian working holiday visas, indicating the market is rebounding from a slump, a peak industry group says.

New figures released by the Department of Immigration show in the nine months to March 2007, a record 102,966 backpackers were granted the visas – a 15 per cent spike on the same period the previous year.

And this financial year is also shaping up to be a record one, with 130,000 visas poised to be issued over the 12 month period, compared to 111,973 the previous year.

Australian Tourism Export Council's Backpacker Tourism Advisory Panel chairman Julian Ledger said the figures indicated the backpacker market was coming out of a three-year slump.

“Last year more than half a million backpackers spent $2.8 billion in Australia – a record number,” Mr Ledger said.

“Backpackers are one of the highest-spending, longest-staying sectors and while they will cut costs on items such as accommodation and food, they travel widely throughout the country and spend up big on entertainment, tours and other activities.”

In the nine months to March this year, the highest number of working holiday visa holders – 23,839 – were from the United Kingdom, a market that has turned around following a recent downturn.

The government also issued 21,671 working holiday visas to South Koreans, 11,373 to Germans and 5,986 to the French, jumps of 17, 28 and 26.6 per cent respectively.

Mr Ledger also said the figures marked good news for Australia's labour-starved business sector.

“Many businesses, especially in regional Australia, are dependent on backpacker labour so it is positive to see an increase in visa grants,” he said.

Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said growing numbers of “well-heeled” backpackers with money to spend were discovering Australia.

“They are spending their money throughout Australia and creating plenty of jobs along the way,” Ms Bailey said.

Mr Ledger said Australia had become a more tempting long-stay destination following recent changes allowing backpackers to work for six months with a single employer as opposed to three, and an extension of their visa for a second year after a minimum three months agricultural work.

Mr Ledger said the Backpacker Tourism Advisory Panel had been campaigning strongly for a relaxation of the restrictions on the working holiday visa.