NSW south coast businesses fear for summer ahead due to staff shortages and Omicron uncertainties

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Job vacancies are on the rise across the NSW south coast, prompting many businesses to feel “bittersweet” about the busy months ahead.

The state’s South Coast relies heavily on tourism trade, particularly from Sydneysiders, Canberrans and Victorians during their peak summer holidays.

However, executive director of Business NSW Adam Zarth said current staffing shortages were a major concern for businesses ahead of Christmas.

“It’s a diabolical problem for business owners down there,” he said.

“And it’s not expected to improve either until backpackers return to our shores and foreign migration can restart again.”

Mr Zarth said job vacancies across the South Coast had drastically increased in the past month alone.

“We’ve seen an increase over the past month of 17.1 per cent in job vacancies,” he said.

“And over the year we’ve seen almost a 30 per cent increase in job advertisements across the region.

So, this shows just how tight it’s getting out there.”

Businesses scramble to adapt

For Pambula pub licensee manager Grant Kennedy, the expected surge in tourists alongside a shortage of skilled workers has forced them to change their business model and cancel live music.

“We had to cancel about eight solo artists that we already had booked between now and February and a New Year’s Eve band, which I feel very sorry for,” he said.

“We just can’t commit [because] we wouldn’t have the staff to be able to service it.”

Mr Kennedy said after a challenging two years of border closures and bushfires an influx in visitors was well needed, but the reality of staff shortages was disheartening.

“It’s sort of bittersweet,” he said.

“We’re all hearing how busy it’s going to be; however, everyone is finding it very difficult to get their staffing levels back up to what they were pre-COVID.”

Omicron brings uncertainties

Jade Griffiths owns a cinema in Narooma and has also struggled to attract staff, but said it was the uncertainty around the summer ahead that was most concerning.

“It is hard to plan because the last two years have been quite unstable so it’s hard to know what to predict,” she said.

“Our biggest fear is that something may happen to the borders and travel restrictions.”

Ms Griffiths took over the business from her grandparents in 2019 and has endured the bushfires and COVID-19 lockdowns since then.

She said the next six months would determine whether they could survive as a small local business.

“I wouldn’t say it’s quite a make or break yet but it’s definitely getting close to that,” she said.

“If it continues to be quiet in the next six months or so I would start getting quite concerned.”

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(Original ABC Article)