A bartender pouring a glass of wine

Empty nesters demanded to save their bedrooms because of a critical shortage of housing in a tropical paradise

A major campaign has been launched to find beds for tourism workers, as the crippling housing shortage combined with the return of international tourists threatens to derail the industry.

The mecca of tourism in far north Queensland, Port Douglas – long popular with US presidents and celebrities – has one of the lowest vacancies in the country, at just 0.4 percent.

Tourism Port Douglas and CEO Daintree Tara Bennett said the Adopt and Worker project called on the community to provide “any space they can have to accommodate our much-needed seasonal workers” in exchange for cash.

“If you have a vacancy, a grandmother’s apartment, a vacant lot suitable for a tent or van, we urge you to adopt a worker,” Ms Bennett said.

Tara Bennett, CEO of Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree, has launched a “worker adoption” campaign due to crippling housing shortages.(ABC News: Kristy Sexton-McGrath)

“We are very interested in people who want to come and work in the region, the destination is attractive, especially in winter, but once they get here, they are [not] find a place to stay.

Rhys Bawden owns the Salsa Bar and Grill near the waterfront of Port Douglas, which recently celebrated its 27th anniversary.

A man is standing in front of a restaurant
Salsa Bar and Grill owner Rhys Bawden says his current employees are being forced to leave Port Douglas due to rising rents and a shortage of housing.(ABC Far North Qld: Kristy Sexton-McGrath)

The walls are decorated with dozens of plates signed by Hollywood stars Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, while singers Ed Sheeran and Kylie Minogue also stopped for food.

He said the critical shortage of housing has an impact on business.

Picture of the Port Douglas coast with the slogan Adopt A Worker
Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree asks empty nesters and those with free rooms to consider renting space to seasonal hospitality workers. (Supplied with: Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree)

“We have employees who have lived and worked in Port Douglas for more than 15 years who have lost their homes due to increased rents, making them unavailable, or properties that are being taken out of rent to become vacation homes,” said Mr Bawden. .

The road to healing

It has been a dire two-year border closure for the tourism industry in far north Queensland due to COVID-19, which has crippled an industry that once cost $ 2.5 billion a year for the local economy.

But there are signs of recovery. According to the Australian Statistical Office, 29,780 short-term visitors arrived in Queensland in March this year, an increase of 28,410 compared to the same period last year.

Port Douglas tour operator Steve Edomondson on a boat in Port Douglas Harbor, September 2021.
Steve Edmondson runs a reef tour and says international advance reservations are stronger than pre-COVID levels.(ABC News: Nathan Morris)

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