Port Douglas business could boom on back of new backpacker visa


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HAPPY HOSTEL: (L-R) Coral Beach Lodge co-managers Tom Quealy and Kasia Balsam believe a new visa class will benefit the thriving Port Douglas hospitality scene. IMAGE: Newsport.

PORT Douglas could be a massive winner from a new working holiday visa allowing backpackers to work in the same hospitality role for up to 12 months.

For the first time, a new subclass 462 visa will allow backpackers from 16 countries to apply for a second year by working in hospitality in northern Australia. Travellers previously had to leave their roles in Port Douglas to pursue farm work, such as picking fruit.

“Previously you could work here for 12 months, six of those with the one employer and then you would have to leave that job,” Tom Quealy, manager at Coral Beach Lodge in Port Douglas, said yesterday.

“If you wanted to apply for a second year visa, then you had to do three months picking pineapples or whatever. Now, that’s not the case.”

The new visa is set to open up the untapped Chinese backpacker market to the region, with other popular countries on the list including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and the USA.

Check out the full list of eligible counties here!

Quealy said new Australian Government initiative would only improve the thriving hospitality scene in the Douglas Shire.

“The most exciting aspect is that backpackers are able to work for employees in Port Douglas for a full year now,” he said.

“All these poor restaurants, hostels and pubs are so used to training up staff only for them to leave. Now, we can actually spend some time and money training staff knowing they can stick around.”

Port Douglas - already celebrated for its entertainment, dining, service quality and accommodation options - would ‘only improve’ as a result of a lower staff turnover.

“Restaurants will be able to produce better food, and wait staff will be of much higher quality because you’re going to have quality hospitality staff want to get that second year visa, and they know they can work here for 12 months.

“It really is an everyone wins scenario. It’s not just a benefit to the backpackers but for all our local businesses.”

For now, English, French, German and Italian hospitality workers will still need to pick those 'pineapples' should they want a second year visa extension.

The farmers will be happy.

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