Southern Downs a draw for Asian tourists

KOREANS and Taiwanese backpackers made up the vast majority of international tourists working on Southern Downs farms in the last year, according to a Stanthorpe senior recruitment consultant.

Chandler MacLeod recruitment consultant Sue Frances said she placed about 3600 international tourists in jobs such as fruit-picking on farms around the state's south-west last year.

Those 3600 visitors made up just a fraction of the more than 136,000 tourists working their way around Australia during the financial year, adding nearly $12 billion to the national economy.

Ms Frances said while about 95% of all working holidaymakers who approached her for work were looking to extend their stay in Australia.

And while many visitors were from European nations such as the United Kingdom, language barriers meant many Asian tourists were flocking to regional Australia in search of seasonal work.

"Often the actual numbers of Europeans on working holiday visas are more than those from Asian countries, but because many Asian tourists have trouble speaking English, they tend to go for jobs like fruit-picking," Ms Frances said.

"We would usually get the most approaches for work from Koreans, but this year there was a massive influx of Taiwanese, almost as many as the normal numbers of Korean working holidaymakers."

Figures from Tourism Australia show working holidaymakers added some $11.9 billion to the national tourism take in 2011-12.

The visas given to the backpackers from mostly European countries grew by 22.3% during the year, while the smaller Asian market grew by 12%.

Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said the youth market contributed more than a quarter of all Australia's international arrivals.

"For many young people, the Working Holiday Maker Visa Program provides the economic means to fund travel plans, and this will be the inspiration behind our future new campaign," Mr McEvoy said.

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