Foreign workers fear coming to Australia in case border closures and lockdowns implemented during the Covid pandemic are repeated, a travel executive has claimed.
Australia’s horror lockdown and border closures had not been forgotten by foreigners and were a major reason for an 86 per cent drop in working tourists.
Global Work and Travel chief executive officer Jurgen Himmelmann said when borders were finally opened to foreigners earlier this year, the damage to Australia’s reputation had already been done.
Lockdowns might be a distant memory for Australians, but they were still front and centre of mind for people considering visiting from overseas.
Himmelmann said overseas workers worried that they could became trapped in Australia if another virus was to suddenly hit.
“People saw Australians being jailed for (breaking Covid quarantine laws). They saw people trapped,” he said.
As a result, the expected “pent-up demand that people would want to rush to Australia once everything opened up” had not been realised.
“Since the borders have opened, we are seeing the same volume of people wanting to leave Australia (as before Covid) but not the same number of people wanting to come to Australia,” he said.
The number of working holidaymakers in Australia in May 2022 was 86 per cent less than in September 2019 according to the Grattan Institute, a leading independent research organisation.
The institute said Australia’s current workforce did not have enough skilled workers to fill vacancies around the country.
Himmelmann said Australia took too long to open up after the pandemic and so missed out on an accumulation of people overseas wanting to move.
“Most parts of Europe never did a hard border closure so a lot of the people that had an eagerness to travel just went somewhere (other than Australia),” he said.
To make matters worse, migrants who did want to come were now facing long delays with getting visas.
Visa processing was taking three months for a skilled worker wanting to temporarily move to Australia and five months for a skilled worker looking to permanently immigrate.