Calls for age limit for working holiday visas to increase

by Ray Clancy on May 24, 2011

in Australia Immigration

Changes to Holiday Maker Visa called

The Working Holiday Maker Visa (WHV) is a significant driving force in attracting backpackers to Australia with many using the country as a base from which they then explore the region, research shows.

There needs to be changes though to the visa, especially in terms of extending the age limit as many backpackers these days are in their early 30s, researchers say.

Backpackers who want to work use visas and travel in a different way and contribute to the local economies where they stay, according to Dr Jeff Jarvis from the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

Speaking at the 2011 Australian Tourism Export Council Backpacker and Youth Industry Conference, he revealed that WHV holders in the popular tourist town of Mildura, Victoria, spent just under $4,000 each, highlighting how these tourists use Australia in a different way to leisure backpackers.

‘Working holiday makers behave differently to traditional leisure backpackers as the work dimension constrains and shapes their mobility,’ Jarvis said.

‘External influences now mean Australia is an expensive destination so the need to work becomes more and more important to attract backpackers and we have to strongly compete with other regional destinations to gain their custom during their non-working periods,’ he explained.

Jarvis said working holidaymakers are now using Australia in the same way young Australian’s have used the United Kingdom for decades. ‘Australia is increasingly being seen as a base from which these visitors can earn money to fund their travel in the wider Australasian region.  Importantly, that short side trip on a budget airline to Fiji or Vietnam can be seen as a positive factor in attracting them here in the first place as it adds value to the Australian experience,’ he added.

ATEC managing director, Felicia Mariani said ATEC had supported recent calls for the Government to provide more attractive working holiday visa arrangements and extend the definition to allow travellers to stay an extra year in return for taking work in a regional tourism area.

‘ATEC, through the National Tourism Alliance, has called on the Government to make changes to the WHV that would support the labour and skills needs of the tourism industry, particularly in regional Australia,’ Mariani said.

‘We would particularly like to see the tourism industry positively supported by allowing travellers to extend their visa for up to 12 months by spending time working in a defined regional tourism job,’ she explained.

‘As a backpacker destination, we face increased competition for Working Holiday Makers from countries such as New Zealand and Canada and we must provide an attractive and competitive opportunity for young travellers,’ she added.

Jarvis said the youth traveller market offered Australia continuing opportunities but changes to the visa conditions were necessary. ‘With the global trend of taking extended career breaks increasing, the youth traveller these days can be up to 35 years old. Typically these travellers are often looking for valuable international work experience in a globalised world, and they want to bring their skills in design, information technology, and finance to Australia for a year,’ he told the conference.

‘This change in the market needs to be addressed with modifications to the visa conditions including increasing the age limit to 35 years old to match Canada, allowing multiple visas and redefining the definition of work,’ he added.

An ATEC survey found that travellers still rank Australia as the world’s most must see destination.

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