Don't cut work holiday visas: tourism body
29th April 2009, 13:30 WST
Taking the axe to working holiday visas to protect local jobs during the economic downturn will backfire, the tourism industry warns.
The Australian Tourism Export Council is concerned the government is considering restricting the number of working holiday visas as unemployment continues to rise.
Last year more than 144,000 people travelled to Australia on the visas.
A majority of those were young backpackers, the only part of the incoming tourism market not yet affected by the economic downturn.
If we hit 10 per cent unemployment theres no doubt that both sides of politics will look at restricting working visas, the councils managing director Matt Hingerty told a backpacking conference in Darwin.
We are drawing a line in the sand and saying to governments hands off, and that there will be an uproar from the industry if they consider it.
The Backpacker Tourism Advisory Council estimates that working backpackers create 8,000 full-time local jobs a year.
Backpackers were creating jobs not taking them, council chairman Peter Burke said.
No matter how hard the job market gets, there are still going to be those jobs available that only backpackers are willing to do.
If the Government started to become protective of jobs and capped working holiday visas it would be a crushing blow.
Tourism operators also argue the visas help promote immigration, which is becoming more and more crucial as western populations continue to age.
With the ageing population comes a narrowing tax base so we need immigration and the right sort, Mr Hingerty said.
There were also educated and motivated young people who did not have jobs because of the global financial crisis.
What a great opportunity for Australia to reach out to them and say come here have a good time, and if you like it come and live here down the track.