After the slowest first half of the year in memory, Port Stephens tourism and hospitality businesses are now run off their feet and crying out for workers.
Business people have reported a huge flood of tourists in the area as COVID-19 restrictions have gradually been lifted, with Port Stephens in a prime position for Sydney travellers who can't holiday outside NSW.
The influx hit a high point at the start of spring and continued through the school holidays. This combined with an unusually low response to available jobs has business operators pleading for help to keep up with the demand.
Destination Port Stephens chairman Andrew Macdonald said there was a big need for hospitality workers, but there is also work in tourism such as quad bike and four-wheel-drive adventures and even in sectors such as cabinet making.
"One cabinet maker said he used to get hundreds of applicants but has only been getting a couple lately," Mr Macdonald said.
Mr Macdonald said he wasn't sure if JobSeeker and JobKeeper could be having an impact on the number of applications or whether people maybe weren't aware jobs were available in the region.
"It seems to have hit us all of a sudden," he said. "I haven't seen anything like it.
"When I hear stories about there being no jobs - it's so regionally-specific.
"There's hundreds of jobs available here. It might involve a small commute or relocating but there are jobs.
"They're not just summer jobs either."
Mr Macdonald owns The Little Nel cafe and Hotel Nelson, and said the cafe could do with two or three more chefs as well as another few front of house staff.
"The cafe has had its busiest month ever in September," he said. "If someone was a chef and wanted a job, they'd start tomorrow."
The Longboat Cafe at Fingal Bay has been closing on Tuesdays as the business doesn't have enough staff. Employees have been working six to seven days a week to cover the huge rush.
Front of house manager Eliana Borg said the cafe was looking for two full-time chefs, another full-time front of house worker and "as many casuals as possible".
"We did lose a few staff members with COVID," she said. "We do usually need new staff at this time of year, but not as many as we do now. It's been crazy here lately. It feels like summer it's that busy."
Ms Borg said it did seem like they were not receiving as many applications as usual for open jobs.
"I'm not sure why, I've been hearing Port Stephens is booked out until next year so we definitely need people," she said.
It seems to have hit us all of a sudden. I haven't seen anything like it.Andrew Macdonald
Shoal Bay Country Club director Peter Lazarus said he was recruiting for jobs in all areas of the business including bartenders, baristas, waiters, chefs and kitchen hands.
He said it was hard to say exactly how many new staff he needed as the business would keep hiring until they had enough.
"We're on an endless recruitment drive at the moment," he said. "It has been very difficult to attract talent.
"There has been a real rush to hire across the whole town."
Mr Lazarus said the club usually relied on international travellers to fill about 15-20 summer positions, which was difficult due to border closures this year.
But he said there were 30-40 per cent more jobs available now than there were at this point last year.
"It's obviously a good problem to have," he said. "It's great to see the local economy doing so well."
Deb Stretton of luxury boat sales business, R Marine Port Stephens, said her workplace had seen a good increase in sales since the start of September.
She said the business was looking for new casual staff to fill roles in administration and detailing.
The situation is a vast contrast to earlier in the year, when Ms Stretton said she was worried the business would have to close its doors.
"To see a complete turnaround is amazing," she said.
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