Visa rebates can plug workforce gaps, but international tourists must return

Changes announced by the Prime Minister today to rebate visa application fees will encourage international students and working holiday makers to return to Australia and plug acute shortages across industry. However, the continued ban on foreign tourists, business travellers and other barred international arrivals must be reconsidered to get the country back to business.

“Prior to the pandemic, up to 400,000 international students and 250,000 working holiday makers were employed per year in Australia. The rebates announced today will be critical in filling labour and workforce gaps, particularly in our tourism and hospitality industries,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“Working holiday makers are not only some of our highest yielding visitors, spending $3.2 billion a year before the onset of the pandemic, but they make up a substantial part of the very workforce we need right now.

“Similarly, supporting the return of international students will be fundamental to securing Australia’s economic recovery. Prior to the pandemic half a million international students were enrolled in our universities, contributing $40 billion to the economy.

“With businesses confronting the worst labour and skill shortages in more than three decades, the changes to ensure that working holiday makers and international students can efficiently and affordably come to Australia and plug shortfalls across the economy are welcome.

Australian Chamber-Tourism Chair John Hart called on the Federal Government to expedite the reopening of our international borders to all fully vaccinated international travellers, a move that will provide the tourism industry with the confidence to resume their operations.

“Given the high rates of community transmission and the protocols for international arrivals to Australia, we must immediately end the ban on international tourists, business travellers and other barred international arrivals, to support those businesses that are reliant on these arrivals,” Mr Hart said.

“Opening the borders last month to international students, skilled migrants, working holiday makers and other important visa holders who have to be vaccinated and tested before they arrive has demonstrated that international arrivals pose very little additional risk.

“Australian Chamber-Tourism is urging the Federal Government to undertake a broader review of visa pricing arrangements. Offering fee-free tourist visas will enhance Australia’s competitiveness as a tourist destination.

“Businesses reliant on international travellers are only just holding on with very little government support to keep them going. They are desperate for some good news.

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