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Peak tourism body holds major concerns over hospitality staff shortages

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Sunshine Coast’s peak tourism body has major concerns over the adverse impacts Covid is having on hospitality businesses during what is supposed to be the sector’s busiest season.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel says hospitality venues are struggling to cope with the loss of labour during this summer, and for many of these businesses it has meant even longer hours and harder work for staff, as accessing alternative workers proves difficult.

Sunshine Coast hospitality businesses are taking a giant financial hit as Omicron infections rise and close contact restrictions wreck havoc on the sector.

Some of the region's most popular surf clubs, cafes and restaurants have been forced to reduce operating hours or close as the Omicron wave filters through the community.

Staff are either Covid infected or deemed a close contact, forcing them into isolation for seven days leaving many small businesses with no options but to temporarily shut.

With the Omicron wave yet to peak, there are fears for the long-term survival of many hospitality businesses if the impost continues for much longer.

Mr Stoeckel says hospitality in the form of restaurants, breweries and entertainment venues is a key component of the Sunshine Coast tourism offer.

“The issue of staffing goes right across the tourism and hospitality sector as well, and businesses on the Sunshine Coast are continuing to face difficulties in operating their businesses due to labour shortages,”he says.

Mr Stoeckel says Visit Sunshine Coast is working with Sunshine Coast Council to attract more workers to the region through a new initiative called ‘Gap year here this year’ aimed at encouraging younger workers to come and enjoy a working holiday on the Sunshine Coast during our peak season.

“The campaign leverages our enviable lifestyle that makes us an attractive destination for young workers starting out in their careers,” he says.

This campaign may be able to help solve the long-term issue of staff shortages, which plagued the region prior to the pandemic, but won’t be able to address any immediate concerns.

The State Government says it remains strongly committed to providing continued support for small businesses, their employees and job seekers through this next phase of the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the government pointed to recent changes such as: redefining close contacts, halving quarantine periods for fully vaccinated, and removing the need for businesses to close for deep cleans, as evidence of what it has done.

Close contacts now only include those who live in the same household as the person with COVID-19, or someone who has spent more than four hours in the household while the person was infectious.

“We are continuing to work closely with peak business and industry bodies to deliver support to businesses during this challenging time,” a State Government spokesperson says.

“As we respond to the impacts of COVID-19 we appreciate the efforts of business owners, their staff, customers, and the public to help protect our communities.

“We understand that each change requires businesses to reassess their current activities and future plans and we thank them for their patience.”