Albany Backpackers buck declining trend
Albany Backpackers manager Peter Marsh and owners Brendan and Stefanie Ball said Albany is getting more popular with travelling workers.

Business is booming for Albany Backpackers, despite a decline in tourist numbers in recent times.

The business has focused on attracting working travellers, keeping beds full and helping other businesses find short-term staff.

Brendan Ball, who owns Albany Backpackers with wife Stefanie, said they had been run off their feet with demand in the past 12 months, selling 25,000 beds.

Based on figures that estimate the average backpacker spends about $107 per night in the community, that is a $2,675,000 economic boon to Albany.

“During the busy time from September to Easter we are virtually booked out,” Mr Ball said.

Backpackers from Europe, Canada, America, and Asia have all come to Albany looking for work.

“A few years ago we noticed a shift in the way people were travelling … more were travelling on working holiday visas rather than as genuine travellers,” Mr Ball said.

So he set up a recruitment company to help backpackers find work locally and bought an additional 70-bed hostel to cope with demand.

“If they do three months work in a high-need area like agriculture, they can apply for a second year visa,” Mr Ball said.

Many backpackers have been getting work harvesting, picking or pruning on local farms and vineyards.

“It’s hard for businesses in Albany to source those short-term staff as locals are looking for more secure employment,” Mr Ball said.

“The way visas are structured at the moment is a good system that’s working … it’s good for Albany and WA.”

Albany Backpackers manager Peter Marsh is being sponsored on a visa by Mr and Mrs Ball.

He first came to Albany as a working backpacker in 2010, and came back for work in September last year.

He is one of many backpackers returning to Albany.

“Albany has a fantastic outdoor lifestyle … it has much of what a city offers, but it has surfing, fishing and cycling and all that tourism offers as well,” Mr Marsh said.

Mrs Ball, from Germany, also came to Albany as a backpacker seven years ago, before falling in love with Mr Ball and becoming his business partner.

While winter is traditionally the quieter time of year, demand for beds and jobs isn’t expected to slow soon.

“As long as there is a need for these seasonal jobs, it will continue,” Mr Ball said.

nathan.watson@albanyadvertiser.com

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