Rethink the definition of “paradise”: That’s the advice from an outback tourism operator to a Queensland government keen on getting people to move bush to take up hospitality and tourism jobs. 

Key points:

  • The Work in Paradise scheme offers financial incentives to move and take up tourism jobs in regional Queensland
  • Most people have chosen to head to the Whitsunday and Cairns regions
  • An advertising blitz is planned to encourage people to move to the outback

The government launched its Work in Paradise Incentive Scheme in July in a bid to fix the dire staff shortages being felt by tourism businesses due to Australia’s closed border and subsequent lack of backpackers. 

The program offers job seekers a $1,500 incentive to relocate.

Figures provided to the ABC show that more than 1,600 vacancies had so far been filled through the scheme, with nearly half in the Whitsundays region.

In the Whitsundays, 718 jobs were taken up followed by 410 in the Cairns area and 317 in Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. 

Take-up was considerably lower in the outback, which has been hit by both severe staff shortages and a huge influx of tourists since the pandemic began.

Fifteen jobs were filled in the Cloncurry shire, 9 in the Longreach region and only 3 in the Diamantina area, which is home to Birdsville.

The side of a pub. Some people sit on a pew and drink while others can be seen gathering in the carpark behind the pub.

Big Red Bash visitors have a drink at the Birdsville Hotel in July 2021 before heading to the festival.(ABC Western Qld: Ellie Grounds)

Campaign aimed at coast, says outback operator

Birdsville Hotel general manager Ben Fullagar said the figures did not surprise him.

“[It’s] predominantly aimed at coastal regions.”

Yvonne Tunney is a tourism operator in Karumba in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where 22 people have taken up the Work in Paradise scheme since July.

She said she was not aware of the program but, if she had been, it probably would not have been much use to her anyway.

“To give people an incentive to come out into these sorts of parts of the world, we’ve got to have reasonable accommodation for them,” Ms Tunney said.

“We’ve got to have good telecommunications systems and services that attract them to come here.

A beach surrounding by hills and pure white sand swirling into the ocean

The Whitsundays was by far the most popular destination for job seekers taking up the Work in Paradise scheme.(ABC Tropical North: Tobi Loftus)

The government is embarking on a second-round marketing blitz to encourage people to take up the scheme for jobs in north and outback Queensland in particular.

“We’re creating more jobs than we have Queenslanders who want to fill them,” Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.

“Our aim is to inspire and incentivise potential staff to work in some of our state’s world-class destinations.”

Outback isn’t ‘paradise’

Mr Fullagar said he hoped the new marking campaign would work for the outback but said a different tagline may be needed.

Big Bash group yoga

The Birdsville Hotel’s general manager suggests the outback should be marketed as an adventure, rather than paradise.(ABC Western Qld: Ellie Grounds)

“Paradise to a lot of people would be islands [where they can] work, maybe on Hamilton Island, or something like that,” he said.

Ms Tunney did not think a campaign advertising the outback would entice people to take up jobs in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

“We’re not always considered to be part of the outback,” she said.

“We’re kind of a leftover.

“The Gulf Savannah area gets left off as a little byline at times.

“We’re not actively represented in a lot of the promotions that go on.”

‘Wouldn’t use the word paradise’: Rebrand needed to lure people to outback jobs, says pub manager
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