Noosa workers staying in hostels as tourists return to the Sunshine Coast
Tourism industry workers in Noosa share eight-bed rooms in hostels as restaurants, cafes and hotels in the resort town fill with visitors.
- Noosa workers are forced to stay in hostels because there is so little accommodation available
- Businesses in Noosa are desperate for hospitality workers but have few options to house them
- A company has built its own accommodation for workers
Visitors to the hamlet of Sunshine Coast are up 40% from pre-COVID levels, putting pressure on businesses that have had to close or lay off workers over the past two years.
Sarah Brown, 20, moved to the east coast of Western Australia and stayed with Nomads Noosa backpackers for two months while working in a cafe on popular Hastings Street.
She shares her bedroom with seven other women and hangs towels around her bunk bed for privacy.
Mrs. Brown loves her job and the city, and would be willing to move into a shared house with other people from the hostel if that were an option.
“There’s nothing,” she said, referring to the availability of rental properties.
“Everything is either too far or too expensive.
“But every cafe has a sign saying ‘Need Workers’.”
Ms Brown said when she served food and coffee to customers at her workplace, they were shocked to learn she would be returning home to backpackers.
In March, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland reported that Noosa’s rental vacancy rate was 0.8%, with less than one rental property available for every 100 in the area.
Rentals transforming into short stays
Nomads managing director Hamish Hill estimated that around 30 people lived in his hostel long-term while working in Noosa.
He said some of them were his own staff, who either chose to stay in backpackers or struggled to find another place to live.
“We have people of all hospitality [business] in Noosa who end up staying here and basically living there,” Mr Hill said.
“We also feel somehow obligated or responsible to take care of these people, because we rely on these seasonal workers and backpackers to stay in Noosa.”
He said Noosa’s popularity meant rental homes were increasingly being rented out on short-term stay platforms such as Airbnb.
Staff shortage hits tourist town
Tourism Noosa boss Melanie Anderson said some of Noosa’s most popular seaside restaurants had stopped serving breakfast because they didn’t have enough staff.
“A lot of these restaurants have made the decision to open for lunch or dinner and keep the staff they have,” she said.
“It’s really a tough decision for any business to cut some of their revenue.
“But to keep the staff and maintain their high level of service, that’s what they had to do.”
Houses purchased to house workers
The situation has become so serious that some employers like Sue Willis have bought properties to house their workers.
Ms Willis rents out holiday homes and units across Noosa, some costing thousands of dollars a night.
But his company Niche Luxury Accommodation couldn’t find cleaners to tend to the properties, despite charging $60 an hour.
The labor shortage meant that Ms. Willis went into clean rooms.
“I can make a three-sheet bed, which is very convenient I would say,” she said.
Ms Anderson said other companies were exploring Ms Willis’ decision to provide workers with accommodation.
But it was not an easy solution.
“As we know property is expensive in Noosa,” Ms Anderson said.
Back at the hostel, Ms Brown said she was now considering leaving Noosa and heading north to Cairns in the hope of seeing more of the country and perhaps finding a more permanent place to live.
She said the backpacker lifestyle was “wearing out” for her.
“Every week it gets harder and harder,” she said.
“Because it’s another week of coming home and not having your own space.”