Broome takes on a tourism boom

Broome’s short-staffed hospitality and tourism sector has stepped up to the challenge of meeting a surge in tourists as cheap domestic flights are dished out and interstate border restrictions ease.

Before the pandemic, Broome relied heavily on employing backpackers from overseas. Photo: Jenny Schon.

However, with international travel bans in place and expiring visas, according to a report by The Broome Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 77 per cent of local businesses surveyed now have significant concerns they will be short staffed and will struggle to meet a growing demand for the next year.

Source: Broome Chamber of Commerce & Industry West Kimberley Labour Snapshot. Infographic: Jenny Schon.

Curtin University tourism and hospitality course coordinator Christof Pforr said the challenge of this industry being understaffed and overworked as demand increases in Broome would potentially have a negative impact on visitors and cause stress on staff.

Professor Pforr said there was no quick fix however, rather a cultural shift was needed in the long term to make career opportunities in Australia’s tourism and hospitality industry more attractive.  

“The industry, training providers like TAFE and universities, and government departments need to think of a more sustainable strategy to ensure an adequately skilled workforce in the long term,” he said.

Broome Camel Safari’s is an iconic local business affected by the shortage of staff.

“I work at least 15 to 16 hours a day at the moment,” part-owner Alison Bird said.

“We’re lucky to get any sleep at all.”

Alison Bird said she and her husband are working harder than ever. Photo: Jenny Schon.

Habitat Resort owner Michael Leake said around 80 per cent of his accommodation was already booked out between May and September before the Federal Government announced half-priced interstate flights to Broome for that period.

Mr Leake said his business and others around town were working much harder than they would like to get through this peak period and still provide the services, experiences and entertainment tourists would expect.

“Everyone around town is rising to the occasion and doing the extra hard yards to make sure it all happens,” he said.

“It’s a challenge, but heck, we’re so pleased to have that challenge.”

He said during surge periods before the pandemic, backpackers would mainly help with housekeeping at the resort.

Now his staff were working extra hours and even the receptionists were taking on housekeeping responsibilities to cover the staff shortages.

Map: Habitat Resort Broome, Broome, Western Australia.