The cost of a visa might be higher than ever, but that won’t deter backpackers from arriving on our beautiful shores, writes Laura Kelly.
Australia is a popular destination for young backpackers seeking adventure, personal growth and independence. Each year, thousands of backpackers from all parts of the world arrive in Australia for either short-term travel or extending working holidays.
In the year ending March 2011, 580,000 backpackers entered the country, spending over 41 million nights in Australia in total. They find the cheapest travel insurance, lodging and means of travel and set out, sometimes for months at a time.
A recent announcement from the Australian federal government says that there is a proposed 28 percent increase in the cost of a working holiday visa, raising the price to AUD $360 starting 1 January 2013.
This has resulted in concerns from both the Australian tourism and regional employment sectors, as backpackers are a key source of labour in regional areas. Fruit picking, farm labour and mining jobs are often filled by foreign backpackers and there is concern that there will be labour shortages.
The chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, John Lee, has expressed his concerns about the rising costs, saying, “If we keep raising the cost of coming to Australia, we risk pricing ourselves out of the market… they will go somewhere else.”
However, some people do not see this increase as being a deterrent and believe backpackers will continue to pursue their dreams of visiting and working in Australia.
Sophie Battereau, a French backpacker who has been in Australia for six months with her husband said that the increase in fees wouldn’t have affected her decision to come. She did think, however, that it may be a hindrance for young travellers who do not have a large amount of money to start with.
For backpackers who are not put off by this increase in fees, Australia continues to be an exciting and opportunity-filled country to explore.
The strong economy means there is a wide range of jobs available and employers are seeking workers in both metropolitan and rural areas. The Australian government even offers an incentive to international workers to extend a working holiday visa for an additional year – by completing at least three months of what is known as specified work in designated parts of rural Australia, backpackers can then apply for a visa extension.
This specific work includes plant and animal cultivation, construction, fishing and pearling, tree farming, mining and construction.
It is hoped that the dream of living and travelling throughout Australia will outweigh the monetary investment these backpackers are having to make. Australia is a big place with lots of exciting areas to explore. Here are my top five picks for backpacking hot spots:
Byron Bay: This hippie haven is perfect if you’re looking for relaxed beaches and a comfortable composition of nature and urban town life.
Uluru: An Australian backpacking icon in the Northern Territory. Also don’t miss the classic natural wonders to see like the beauty of Ayers Rock and the famous Alice Springs.
Darwin: This is where you’ll find true Australian nature and culture. With access to national parks like Kakadu and Litchfield and Katherine Gorge, this is the place to experience the Sydney- We have to include Sydney for its classic attraction and multitude of activities and things to do. Sydney offers the traditional and widely-know Australian attractions that every backpacker must see, especially first timers.
Broome: If you’re feeling adventurous head to Broome. An exotic town in western Australia, Broome offers fishing, beaches and serves as a gateway to the Kimberley wilderness. Don’t miss the beautiful pearl jewelry and fascinating history of this pearling town.
Wherever backpackers may roam in Australia, it is important to have a plan, be safe and be prepared for some life-changing adventure.