26 October 2022

Disability Pilot to help tourism industry address worker shortage

Tourism is just one of Australia’s growth industries that faces workforce challenges.

The National Skills Commission’s (NSC) 2022 Skills Priority List reveals national shortages. There is now a shortage of chefs, hotel/motel managers and tour guides and NSC predicts moderate to strong future demand for these roles.

The accommodation and food services sector alone is predicted to account for 139,900 new jobs by November 2025 (Source: Jobs and Skills Australia, Jobs growth by industry, occupation and skills, December 2021, viewed 12 October 2022).

iFLY Indoor Skydiving, Sydney, promotes inclusion

One way to address this skills shortage is to remove the barriers to tourism employment for people with disability.

Sydney’s iFLY Indoor Skydiving is particularly inclusion-focused. It took part in a recent Austrade-led Accessible Tourism Mentoring Pilot Project.

’We know we do a lot of things well, but we wondered if we had missed anything,’ says Head of Sales Barbara McCarthy. ‘The pilot project gave us a better understanding of what we need to work on.’

‘The pilot project report suggested we hire someone with disability, so we hired an agency to assist with finding a suitable candidate. Our new staff member has now been with us for 2 months and they have been amazing,’ she says.

iFLY used a local employment agency specialising in employment for people with disability (called Disability Employment Services Providers). ’It’s working well. The agency is always there if we need anything,’ says McCarthy.

$3m pilot program to remove barriers for tourism small business to hire people with disability

The Australian Government has committed $3.3 million to develop a pilot to identify barriers to tourism SMEs hiring people a disability. The pilot program will address perceived barriers to recruiting, retaining and training staff with disability.  This is a joint initiative announced by Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Tourism Minister Don Farrell.

Workplace modifications

In the few cases where a workplace needs modification, JobAccess and the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) may help. For example, mobility assistance can make a significant difference to the prospect of finding a good candidate.

An Associate Lecturer at Curtin University, Carol loves teaching Indigenous culture and history. Her disability makes it hard to walk long distances. She uses an electric scooter to get around the campus.

EAF and JobAccess have helped make her workplace accessible. Automated doors have been installed to make it easy for Carol to enter her office building.

Benefits of employing people with disability

The benefits of a diverse workforce are widely accepted. They include increased innovation and productivity. Diversity also links to better financial performance (Source: McKinsey and Company, Diversity Wins, May 2020).

The Australian Network on Disability put together a list of the business benefits of employing people with disability. For the visitor economy, benefits include the ability to:

  • widen your talent pool
  • expand your consumer base
  • retain workers.

Research has also challenged misperceptions about employing people with disability. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW):

  • Almost 9 in 10 people with disability do not need more support to work
  • About 8 in 10 people with disability do not need time off because of their disability.

(Source: AIHW, People with disability in Australia, last updated July 2022)

Building a resilient visitor economy workforce

THRIVE 2030 is a long-term strategy for the sustainable growth of Australia’s visitor economy. A priority of the strategy is building a secure and resilient workforce. This includes attracting workers from under-represented groups. It’s estimated that more than 113,000 people with disability are unemployed or underemployed, and ready to work.

Visit THRIVE 2030 to learn more about the strategy.


You can connect with the disability employment sector on the JobAccess website. You can even search for a Disability Employment Services Provider near you. These providers are experts at connecting people with disability to prospective employers. They can also offer your business advice on promoting job vacancies, shortlisting candidates and interviewing people with disability. They can also provide guidance on disability awareness in the workplace, available financial support, flexible workplace arrangements and disability legislation.

JobAccess is the Australian Government’s national hub for workplace and employment information for people with disability, employers and service providers. Download the employer toolkit and learn how JobAccess can help your business.

The Employment Assistance Fund helps eligible people with disability and mental health conditions. It also helps employers buy work-related modifications, equipment, Auslan services and workplace support. Free workplace assessments are available to determine what is needed to support an employee with disability.

Growing the visitor economy

THRIVE 2030 is Australia’s national strategy for the long-term, sustainable growth of the visitor economy.