Business owner fears the worst is still to come

February 18, 2021 BY

The Lorne Hotel is calling for additional employees following a shortage of international workers. Photo: LORNE HOTEL

LORNE businesses are hopeful January’s surge in tourism will continue for months to come as owners grapple with the costly impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.

The coastal town was reportedly upbeat last month with local accommodation at full capacity, country club bookings for tennis and golf up more than 50 per cent from the previous year and Live Wire Park experiencing consecutive record days.

Despite a successful summer holiday period, owner of the Lorne Hotel, Paul Upham, said it may not be enough for some local businesses.

“The biggest issue that most businesses have is that they’re still paying rent back to landowners all the way through to March last year,” he said.

“People still have costs they have incurred that have to be paid back so, while January was a good month, a lot of the profits have gone to paying landlords.

“We still need significant months ahead.”

Mr Upham is waiting to see what happens with borders and whether increased freedoms will encourage more visitors to Victoria, and whether the state will look to holiday elsewhere.

“It has quietened down now that everyone has returned back home,” he said.

“At this stage weekends are still steady, but the weekdays are significantly less busy.”

As visitors begin to head back to work and university students return to larger cities for their studies, the local economy is likely to suffer.

Usually a hub for overseas workers, Lorne has been experiencing a shortage of employees since international borders were shut in early 2020.

Mr Upham, who employs up to 25 international workers at any one time, said the few next months were likely to be the biggest hit to his establishment.

“There is still a significant shortage of workers which is likely to get worse by March/April when business is still steady enough with Easter and school holidays but there won’t be enough staff,” he said.

“It is hard to know where it will finish.”

Mr Upham said he has used numerous job advertising sites, as well as social media, to advertise his many positions still available.

“It is very bad, to give you an idea, I have three kitchens at the hotel, and I haven’t been able to find any kitchen hands at all,” he said.

“I put up an ad for a front-of-house supervisor and it has been out for a week and we haven’t had one person apply despite saying we would provide accommodation.”

Mr Upham encourages anyone seeking employment to call the Lorne Hotel directly on 5289 1409 or drop into 176 Mountjoy Parade to discuss potential opportunities.