Capes venues are warning their summer capacity to service the hungry hordes could be severely undermined by worker shortages related to the backpacker market. With WA’s Australian Hotels Association this week warning the State’s pubs and attractions were up to 10,000 workers short, operators between Busselton and Augusta were calling on more help. In Margaret River, Settlers Tavern owner Rob Gough said housing remained the single greatest impediment to attracting more casual workers. “We’re starting to see a seasonal influx of backpackers, but not at the same pre-pandemic levels we hoped for,” Mr Gough told the Times. “The mining industry has siphoned local workers across every industry including critical trades and services we depend on: builders, plumbers, sparkies, etc. “We fully anticipate a continued shortage of skilled hospitality workers for the foreseeable future, bearing in mind that there was a chronic shortage well before the pandemic. “The situation now is double jeopardy. Affordable housing is the single biggest challenge for backpackers relocating to the Capes region.” Other operators reported similar problems, including that key local workers were now taking up higher-paying fly-in, fly-out positions up north, while backpackers were not heading down south in the expected numbers. Metricup’s Margaret River Chocolate Company co-owner Martin Black said there was fierce competition even for those backpackers already in the region. “We are perpetually advertising,” he told the Times. “We have been looking for a cook/chef for over eight months, as well as a range of other positions.” Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association chief executive Sharna Kearney said backpackers were key to many local industries. “Anecdotally, we know they are significantly less than what we were receiving pre-pandemic,” she said. But the housing situation undermined the desirability of the region as a working holiday destination which could have knock-on effects for the Margaret River brand. “There would be very few businesses across the region that have the required number of staff to run their operations at the desired level, and most are having to limit their offering as a result,” Ms Kearney said. “Our region’s reputation is built on quality — whether it be the quality of our environment, our wine, or our tourism experiences. “The inability of businesses to deliver their offering at the desired level will ultimately impact on our hard-won reputation, and our region’s prosperity going forward.” Margaret River Wine Association chief Amanda Whiteland said many businesses “across all sectors” were reducing opening hours or capacity because of less than optimum staffing numbers. The State Government recently unveiled multiple programs to co-ordinate hospitality job vacancies and attract more international students and working holidaymakers to regional WA, but it was yet to be seen whether the numbers would come through. Mr Gough also said visa processing times were far too slow to address demand. Ms Kearney said a co-ordinated approach from all levels of government was needed.