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Snowy Mountains businesses fearful for ski season ahead as many still can't find staff

Friday June 11, 2021 - 06:02 EST

The 2021 ski season has officially kicked off, but Snowy Mountains businesses bracing for an influx of tourists over the Queen's Birthday long weekend are still struggling to secure staff.

The region's housing crisis and international border closures have taken a toll on the local economy, with the few staff available often unable to find a place to live.

Jindabyne Chamber president Olivier Kapetanakos said while this week's heavy snow dump was an exciting start to the season, he was worried about understaffed businesses.

"We're very excited about seeing snow, we're very excited about seeing tourists, we're very excited to have that mixture," he said.

"But there's still a certain fear about trying to get enough staff."

Most industries are having difficulties with securing staff, including cafe owner Renae Buechner.

"It's going to be a really tough season," Ms Buechner said.

"We're just really nervous about how we're going to staff it and how we're going to accommodate all the people visiting our beautiful region."

'400 beds short'

Despite the town currently being 400 beds short for seasonal workers this year, the Snowy Monaro Regional Council is pushing ahead with reinstating last year's ban on informal camping around Jindabyne.

"There are approximately 400 beds short for seasonal workers," Mr Morgan said.

"We're putting in place the same regulatory measures around informal camping.

"But that's going hand in hand with attempting to identify or have landholders come forward with development applications to provide alternative solutions."

Seasonal worker Chabane Ait-Touati is risking the ban this winter but thinks the council shouldn't be restricting workers from sleeping in a van, especially during a housing crisis.

"They're just doing everything to push us out of the town and everybody wants to be in town because the pub's here," he said.

"I'll just go onto the side of the road a bit out of town, but I think it's a bit stupid."

Struggles outside of main centre

For businesses outside of the main centre, attracting staff is proving difficult.

"Staffing's been a big issue this year," Berridale's Southern Cross Motel manager Burton Yuen said.

"Berridale being about 45 minutes without traffic heading up to Thredbo and Perisher means that it's not as appealing due to the distance."

There are fears that this year's staffing issues will have a considerable impact on how efficiently businesses can run.

"If you can't have accommodation, if you can't have the staff, you will probably end up reducing the number of hours you can service your business," Mr Kapetanakos said.

"Or in some cases, you may not even work for winter, so it's fearful."

Despite these worries, the sentiment among business owners remains the same.

"We plan just to smile and be ourselves and continue doing what we do," Ms Buechner said.

It's a sentiment Burton Yuen agrees with. 

"It may not be smooth sailing, but it will all be a learning curve and we just make it work."


© ABC 2021

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