Businesses on the south coast of NSW fear the coming summer amid staff shortages and Omicron uncertainties

Job vacancies are on the rise on the south coast of NSW, making many companies feel ‘bittersweet’ about the busy months ahead.

The state’s southern coast relies heavily on the tourism trade, especially Sydney residents, Canberrans and Victorians during their peak summer vacations.

However, Business NSW executive director Adam Zarth said the current staff shortages were a major concern for businesses leading up to Christmas.

“And that shouldn’t get better either until the backpackers return to our shores and foreign migration can restart.”

Business NSW executive director Adam Zarth said staff shortages are currently being felt primarily by businesses on the south coast.(ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss)

Mr Zarth said vacancies on the south coast had increased significantly in the past month alone.

“And over the course of the year, we’ve seen an almost 30% increase in job postings in the region.

So that shows how tight it gets there. “

a board outside a cafe advertising staff
Businesses across Australia are grappling with shortages ahead of summer.(ABC News: Brian Hurst )

Companies are struggling to adapt

For Grant Kennedy, Pambula Pub Licensing Manager, the expected increase in the number of tourists and the shortage of skilled workers has forced them to change their business model and cancel live music.

“We just can’t engage [because] we wouldn’t have the staff to maintain it. “

An older man with a beard and glasses stands outside his pub.
Pub licensee manager Grant Kennedy says the decision to cancel live music is sad but necessary.(ABC South East: Keira Proust)

Mr Kennedy said that after two difficult years of border closures and bushfires, an influx of visitors was much needed, but the reality of staff shortages was daunting.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said.

“We all hear how busy this is going to be; however, everyone is struggling to bring their staff level back to what they were before COVID.”

Omicron brings uncertainties

Jade Griffiths owns a cinema in Narooma and has struggled to attract staff as well, but said it was the uncertainty around the coming summer that was of most concern.

“It’s hard to plan because the past two years have been quite volatile so it’s hard to know what to expect,” she said.

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

A smiling young woman with her grandparents in front of a cinema
Jade Griffiths bought the local Narooma cinema from her grandparents in 2019.(Provided: Jade Griffiths)

Ms Griffiths took over her grandparents’ business in 2019 and has since suffered bushfires and lockdowns from COVID-19.

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

“If he continues to be calm for the next six months or so, I would start to worry.”

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