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More than half of 2600 tourism jobs advertised attracted fewer than five applicants for each position as businesses struggle for staff

The dire state of the tourism workforce was highlighted in an industry survey which showed more than half of job advertisements received fewer than 5 applicants.

Three quarters of the 360 ​​businesses that responded to a Tourism Industry Aotearoa questionnaire at the end of June were recruiting, but 86% rated the quality of applicants as average to poor, mainly because they were overseas workers who lacked suitable experience and were seeking sponsorship to come here.

Of the 2600 vacancies on offer just prior to the borders reopening, more than half were full time positions, with housekeepers (543) topping the list, followed by food and beverage attendants (461), frontline and customer service roles (310) and chefs (245).

Hurdles to getting prospective employees to shift to the regions include cost of living, isolation and lack of available accommodation.

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Free tattoos are among the incentives offered by Nelson owners of Kismet cocktail and whiskey bar Nick and Kymberly in a bid to attract staff.  A survey of 360 tourism and hospitality businesses found only 10% of those advertising for staff received more than 10 applicants.

Braden Fastier/Nelson Mail

Free tattoos are among the incentives offered by Nelson owners of Kismet cocktail and whiskey bar Nick and Kymberly in a bid to attract staff. A survey of 360 tourism and hospitality businesses found only 10% of those advertising for staff received more than 10 applicants.

Just over half of businesses said they would be reliant on working holiday visa holders to fill some of their positions because pay rates were not sufficient to justify becoming an accredited employer to bring in migrant labour.

According to Stats NZ, 94,600 overseas visitors arrived in June, compared to just 37,900 for the first three months of 2022 combined.

Guest nights in commercial accommodation for June were 43% higher than the same period last year, putting increased pressure on operators struggling to fill vacancies.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Rebecca Ingram said getting the right people in the right place in the right roles was the biggest concern for tourism employers after a major exodus of workers since the pandemic struck, and they were pulling out all stops to do that.

“Seventy per cent pay at least the living wage [$23.65 per hour]and tourism businesses are working very hard to find the workforce they need, so that means there’s a lot of effort going into very competitive packages.”

A third of those surveyed were making bonus or incentive payments which included free gym membership, free meals, access to spas and saunas, and discounts on activities.

Ingram said 47% of businesses were confident of attracting and retaining the workers they needed, and the 14% who were not at all confident tended to be in hospitality outlets, hotels and lodges.

Winter sickness, Covid-19 and isolating staff were causing major problems, and over the next three months looking after current staff and preventing burnout would be a challenge, with a third of businesses expecting to reduce services to cope.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has suggested that the university year be adjusted to allow students to work in February and March to fill worker shortages.

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