Working Holiday Makers on the Rise in Australia

The outlook for the tourism industry is not all doom and gloom, according to the Department of Immigration’s latest six monthly report, which has stated that applications for working holiday visas in Australia are on the up.

Indeed, in the six months up to December 31st, 2011, the number of travellers on a first year working holiday visa increased by 11.4%, says The Working Holiday Maker Visa Program Report. This return to significant growth, following the sharp decline in 2009 and slight growth in 2010, is linked to the wider global economic situation, the reports’ authors argue.

Interestingly, much of the growth has come from outside the traditional markets. Visas granted to people from Hong Kong rose by 54.9%, from Taiwan by 43.1%, Italy by 30%, Ireland by 24.8% and Japan by 21.2%, while Dutch visas dropped by 7.5%.

The UK remains the biggest source market, representing 19.5% of the total. In 2011, 17,760 Brits headed Down Under on a first working holiday visa, a rise of 1.6% on the previous year.

The take-up for the second year working holiday visa was even more impressive, with the figures jumping by 34.5%. The report largely attributed this rise to the delayed flow-on effect of the growth experienced by the first year visa in 2010.

Of the 25,000 or so second year visa holders, about 90% were engaged in agricultural work in 2010-11, according to the report. The rest were doing either construction work (9%) or mining work (1%).

Overall, the working holiday visa programme grew by 14.1%, meaning that, as of 31st December, 2011, there were 130,612 working holiday visa holders in Australia (first and second year visa holders conbined).

On that number, the report said: “This figure marks a continued healthy growth of the program following the uncharacteristic decline in visa grants experienced in 2009-10, noting that with the exception of 2009-10, the program has steadily grown each year for the last decade. Programme growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, but to an extent this will be partly contingent upon the wider global economic situation.”

On the growth, YHA Ltd CEO Julian Ledger also added: “The increase in first year working holiday visas issued has come about through the good work of Tourism Australia and the more active state tourism organisations combined with the industry in marketing the working holiday opportunity. This has contributed to increasing the awareness of work opportunities in Oz as compared with home.”

The work and holiday visa programme also grew by 1.7% in the last six months of 2011, with the biggest gains coming from Indonesia (43.9) and Chile (25.4%).

Work and holiday arrangements with Argentina (capped at 500) and Papua New Guinea (capped at 100) are both expected to come into effect within the next few months.