22/03/2005 - 21:00

Staff short as tourism growth gathers pace

22/03/2005 - 21:00

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With more than $100 million of tourist developments and upgrades scheduled, a substantial increase in direct flights from several airlines and tourism operators anticipating a record year, things are looking good for Broome’s tourism sector.

Staff short as tourism growth gathers pace

With more than $100 million of tourist developments and upgrades scheduled, a substantial increase in direct flights from several airlines and tourism operators anticipating a record year, things are looking good for Broome’s tourism sector.

In fact, the biggest problem faced by tourism developers is finding and retaining staff to work in the resorts.

New developments include the $30 million Rendevous Sanctuary Resort, the $15 million Frangipani Resort, and the $40 million Paspailey Pearls Pinctada Resort, approval for which is pending.

Upgrades on existing developments include $11 million of work at Hawaiian Management-owned Cable Beach Club, and the development of a nine-hectare lot adjacent to the resort with the creation of a new retail strip part of the development. 

Seashells Hospitality Group, which operates Seashells Resort Broome, expects to begin construction on 12 spa villas and retail space, costing $10 million, by the end of 2005.

Seashells Broome resort manager Jackie Stidwill said the units would be privately purchased and then leased back to the Seashells group to manage.

An upgrade to the Tropicana Inn is also planned.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Graham McGinn said stability in the Broome workforce was one of the key issues for the region.

“Getting and retaining staff is a big problem. We have recently been putting a business plan into place to present to airlines in Asia, and this will be a short-lived market unless the service component is there,” Mr McGinn said.

“There are enough tourism developments on board to increase tourism capacity, it’s just staff that are the question.”

Tourism only replaced pearling as Broome’s main economic earner about eight years ago, according to Mr McGinn, who said the region’s main market was Western Australia, but that marketing was increasing in the eastern states.

“There is only going to be further expansion in the tourism market. Last year Broome experienced the highest average occupancy rates ever, and this year operators are predicting an even bigger year,” Mr McGinn said.

Shire president Tom Vinnicombe said Broome was very dependant on tourism, and that the shire worked hard to broaden that into sectors such as agriculture and mining.

He recognised that the skills shortage was being experienced nationwide, but said it was more acutely felt in places such as Broome.

“We have been actively lobbying the State Government to provide training locally, as the problem with shortages of staff is not just in the hospitality industry, but across the spectrum of skilled and unskilled labour,” Mr Vinnicombe said.

“Last year we recorded the best season yet, and this year will be even better; we just need the resourced to meet the expectations for service levels.

“Tourism is directly extremely important to Broome, but it is also very important for the indirect benefits that it provides through development, extra retailers and employment.

“However, a balance always needs to be found between development and retaining what is unique about the region.”

An announcement late last year by the State Government of a $16 million extension to Broome Port will not only increase the commercial capacity of the port, but also allow greater numbers of tourism-based passenger vessels to make Broome a port of call, putting further pressure on local tourism operators.

Cable Beach Club general manager Jon Woodworth said the resort had started recruiting overseas labour to fill staff shortages, including cleaning staff and chefs.

• This reporter travelled to Broome courtesy of the Seashells Hospitality Group.

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