Holidaymakers in Australia are warned they will pay more for accommodation as prices soar amid high demand, while crippling staff shortages are forcing some hoteliers to cap visitor numbers.
Data from travel booking website Trivago’s hotel price index, which analyses prices from over 400 booking sites, shows average hotel charges in Australia have skyrocketed since pandemic restrictions eased.
“Prices have been going up year on year, but have been quite astronomical lately, and I feel part of that reason is that we’ve just gone through Easter, the school holidays, Anzac Day, and the long weekend,” travel editor at Finder, Stephanie Yip, said.
“There has been this pent-up demand for travel. A lot of us have been cooped up for two years now.”
Trivago’s hotel price index shows the average hotel room cost in Sydney is now above $240 per night, up from $206 a night a year ago. For Melbourne, the average price is now $239, up from $200 in August last year.
In recent weeks massive demand for travel has seen long delays at domestic airports and previously neglected destinations, such as outback South Australia, increasing in popularity.
The CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Michael Johnson, said the surge in accommodation bookings occurred when the industry was still struggling to find staff.
“We’re still over 100,000 working holidaymakers down on pre-restriction levels, and more than 150,000 international students down. Just these two alone is a big proportion of hotel and hospitality staff,” he said.
Johnson said the staff shortages were forcing many hotels to work at 70% to 80% capacity, with current staff already overburdened and stretched to the limit.
He said during the recent Vivid festival in Sydney, many accommodation providers had complained about their inability to capitalize on the increased demand and make back some of the crucial revenue lost over the past two years of lockdowns.
“I know hotels are still looking for 30 to 40 staff; instead of running two restaurants, they only run one. They’re not taking conference bookings because they don’t have the staff to manage those bookings.”
Johnson believes the situation will improve with time and said the industry expected many students and working holidaymakers to arrive in the country in the next few months.
He said the industry was also looking for new ways of attracting local staff and utilizing the existing labor force better but was calling on the government to help support these initiatives.
Some ideas have been touted include giving employees who wish to supplement their current job with one or two hospitality shifts per week a tax break on their additional income.
Johnson said the industry was also working on better promoting hospitality roles to young Australians, particularly those who had left the industry following the lockdowns.
He wanted to see visa processing times for skilled workers reduced, saying this would immediately impact the labor shortage.
Despite all the upward pressure on prices, Yip said holidaymakers should not give up on a midyear escape but should look for holiday deals and end-of-financial-year sales.
She recommended people looking for something a little easier on the pocket avoid Queensland and the Snowy Mountains, which are experiencing the highest demand, with the latter recording average accommodation prices 17% higher than they were in the last winter season.
Caravan holidays are experiencing a surge in popularity. Photograph: Bbs Public Relations
An option for the budget-conscious was camping and caravanning, which Yip said were experiencing a surge in popularity.
Internationally, the pricing situation is largely the same, with many European destinations hiking their prices to two-year highs, according to Trivago. Yip said south-east Asian destinations such as Thailand and Bali remained the most affordable options for those keen on a sea change.