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Staff hold keys to success

IT may hold a prime location perched on the edge of the turquoise Indian ocean and be set in the heart of the State’s wine region, however, these factors alone will not ensure the success of the new Bunker Bay resort. 

The success of the soon to be opened five-star resort will hinge upon its ability to attract and retain highly-trained hospitality staff – a task that has often been difficult to realise in the south west corner.

It is a challenge that is faced by the entire tourism industry as it grapples with the issue of providing better training and remuneration in an effort to entice more people into the industry.

Mirvac Hotels and Resorts WA general manager Simon McGrath said that the issue of attracting and retaining high quality staff was an ongoing problem experienced throughout the tourism industry.

“To attract and maintain staff to meet the price point, you need people who are committed,” he said.

Mr McGrath said while he expected the Margaret River resort to attract already proficient staff, Mirvac Hotels and Resorts was also enacting its own training program and was in preliminary discussions with the South West College of TAFE.

“Training needs to be multi-faceted and ensure experience in different areas so that young people can see there is more to the industry,” he said.

South West College of TAFE portfolio manager for hospitality and tourism Tony Ashbolt said training and attracting people into the tourism/hospitality industry was going to be a massive challenge for WA, particularly in the South West.

Mr Ashbolt said many young people in the industry ended up leaving WA to head interstate and overseas looking for better conditions and pay.

He said part of the problem was that employers did not implement ongoing training and that jobs in the industry were not regarded as ‘real’ jobs.

“It is going to be a huge challenge because of the [tourism] infrastructure coming into the South West. It used to be mum and dad operations – now we have got the big boys coming in.”

Mr Ashbolt said larger operations such as Hilton and Mirvac Resorts and Hotels entering the southern market would help raise training levels through traineeships and lift benchmarks in the industry.

Penalty rates are also viewed as a problem for the tourism industry, which traditionally is at its busiest on the weekends.

“We’ve got to really abolish penalty rates, then we can lift standard rates so that operations can be more viable and can keep staff on,” Mr Ashbolt said.

In a first for the industry, a university course focusing on regional tourism/hospitality will become available next year with the release of the Edith Cowan University regional business degree in hospitality. 

A new Margaret River campus for the South West College of TAFE, which will offer relevant courses, is also soon to be opened in the region.

Tourism Minister Bob Kucera agreed that training and sufficient remuneration were challenges for the industry.

He said that the industry required a quality workforce and that young people needed to be encouraged into the industry to meet the future demand for tourism in the State.

“The ABS has forecast that almost one million people will visit the State in 2020. That means the number of people visiting the State will double,” Mr Kucera said.

In a signal that the tourism industry has been recognised as a serious economic powerhouse, the Federal Government has released its long-term strategic directions for the industry and announced an additional investment in tourism-focused initiatives of $235 million over four and a half years.

Tourism Council WA president Ron Buckey said regional tourism support initiatives announced in the Federal white paper would be of great benefit to WA.

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