Worker Attraction

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for the NT’s hospitality industry, with 2021 also looking like it will not include many international travellers to the NT.

We know that many hospitality businesses are doing it tough, hanging on to survival due to Government support such as JobKeeper. However, our industry has a longstanding gap in skilled workers, which has traditionally accessed the myriad of migration visas including the NT’s DAMA.

In order to gauge the number skilled workers needed in our industry now or in early 2021, Hospitality NT undertook an Industry survey. We thank all of our Members that took the time to complete the short survey.


The survey had 47 responses (as at 27 Sept. 2020), with 57% of those being in the Darwin and Palmerston area, evenly spread across all categories of hospitality e.g. pub, restaurant, accommodation hotel and clubs.

Despite the challenges facing NT businesses, 36% of businesses that completed the survey were looking to grow their business over the next year, while 38% were to remain the same. Of a concern is the 26% of business that were looking to decrease their business and staffing levels in the next 12 months.

In terms of when local hospitality businesses are seeking to recruit, there were two distinct groups. Those that have an immediate need for skilled workers (approx. 40% of respondents), so were looking to recruit now and those who were looking to recruit early in 2021 (April being the most popular month), which were about 60% of businesses that completed the survey.

How much staff does the NT’s hospitality industry need in 2020/2021?

Full Time employees 74
Part Time employees 86
Casual employees 417
Apprentices/Trainees 13

What occupations are/will local businesses recruiting for?

Cook (Specialist Ethnic Cuisine) 8
Chef 34
Pastry Cook 1
Cook 12
Breakfast Chef 5
Kitchen Hand 17
Cafe/Restaurant Manager 11
Bar Attendant (Supervisor) 10
Bar Attendant 56
Food and Beverage Attendant 112
Waiter (Supervisor) 12
Waiter 226
Barista 14
Gaming Machine Manager 14
Crowd Controller 5
Security Consultant 5
Hotel Services Manager 5
Housekeeper or Guest Services 25
Hotel/Motel Receptionist 9
Hotel/Motel Manager 7
Accommodation and Hospitality Manager nec 2
Maintenance Worker 3
Gardener 5
Office Manager 1
Finance Manager 1
Bookkeeper 2
Human Resource Professionals 1
Conference & Event Organiser 1
Caravan Park & Camping Ground Manager 1

While most of the vacancies seem to be semi-skilled, there are still skilled workers needed, particularly chefs. Upcoming changes to both Job Keeper and Job Seeker may see more locals entering into the semi-skilled positions, but the continued international border closures will impact on NT businesses recruiting skilled overseas workers.

Where is recruitment taking place? The split was about 50% locally recruiting, while the other 50% were looking and advertising interstate. Many employers noted that their past practices of relying on backpackers or international students to fill labour gaps is not available to the same degree as previous years – that can be seen in the semi-skilled job vacancies.

In terms of interstate recruitment, most of the responses were quite general, i.e. recruiting from anywhere in Australia, with only Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth named specifically.

The cost of recruiting relocating staff from one of the key areas of recruitment, Melbourne is further escalated by the cost of quarantine. Many NT businesses noted that if this cost could be reduced for staff relocating to the NT for work that their recruitment efforts would be much more successful. This is something Hospitality NT will raise with the NT Government.

Chef the NT

Hospitality NT has been supported by the NT Government to undertake a Worker Attraction campaign. Given the reliance on overseas workers for positions within kitchens, we have worked with a local digital agency to come up with ‘Chef the NT’ campaign. We will be largely promoting this on social media, as well as targeted industry publications.

We were also booked to exhibit this campaign at the largest trade Expos, Fine Foods Australia and Food Services Australia this year, but that has been postponed to mid next year.

Despite the challenges facing the industry, we think now is a great time to be promoting the work opportunities available in our industry to key markets where skilled workers may be looking for work.

Our Chef the NT campaign focuses on the laidback, adventures lifestyle we enjoy in the NT, working with some great local fresh produce. Stay tuned to our social media pages to see more of this campaign.

Sarah Andrews