Hotels are facing challenges from several fronts from the latest Omicron wave including staff shortages, fewer customers and supply chain issues.

Hospitality industry body the AHA says with thousands of people either off sick with the Omicron variant or isolating because of a close contact, many businesses have had to close altogether.

Customers are also staying away, with data from hospitality guest experience and retention platform SevenRooms showing that Omicron is driving a wave of restaurant and pub dining cancellations in Australia. In some good news, however, these are not as harsh as they were in 2020.

A comparison of cancellations and no-shows during the latest Omicron surge in December/January shows cancellation rates spiked to 20.4 per cent, in comparison to 66 per cent cancellation rates in March/April 2020 in Australia. 

In positive news on the staffing front, a new $55m plan to rebate visa application fees on visitors arriving within the next 12 weeks has been announced by the Federal Government to entice international students and backpackers back to Australia.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson said these changes will encourage international students and Working Holiday Makers (WHM) to return to Australia and will begin to address the huge staff shortages across the hospitality sector.

He said more than 100,000 positions were vacant across the sector nationally and hotels were being forced to close on certain days or reduce hours during their busiest period because they simply do not have the staff.

“Our industry is struggling to recover from the worst 18 months in our history and the recovery is being hampered by a dire skills shortage across the nation,” he said.

“Australia is in a global competition for international students and WHM’s and anything that can increase our competitiveness is welcomed.”

To ease supply chain shortages, meanwhile, the National Cabinet last week added some exemptions from self-isolation to some in the hospitality and supply industries. Among the exempt services is ‘Food, Beverage and Other Critical Goods’, although this only applies to those delivering essential food, drink and groceries, in addition to transport and freight operators.

Tourism Accommodation Australia says that it wants exemptions extended to back-of-house workers such as kitchen staff to prevent bars and restaurants having to close due to staff shortages, with the industry body reportedly in talks with government to this end.

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