A vital North West Queensland business may have to reduce its business hours which could impact travellers, due to staffing shortages.
The Burke and Wills Roadhouse is located 183km north of Cloncurry and is a remote stop for many travellers driving from Julia Creek, Normanton, Gregory, Cloncurry and beyond; but travel plans could be hindered if owners do not secure more staff.
Business owner Cherie Stanger said they had struggled to secure enough staff to meet demand and were trying to avoid reduction of business hours which could impact travellers heading into tourist season.
"Usually we employ between 10 to 16 staff here throughout the tourist season, but there is only seven of us and we are all working long days and big shifts and getting burnt out with no end in sight," Ms Stanger said.
"We are getting busier and busier each day, which is exactly what we've been working so hard to achieve since we bought the roadhouse two years ago, but we cannot find employees to share the workload with.
"We don't want to have to reduce our business hours because we are such a vital stop for many travellers seeking fuel, water or food; but we are at a crossroads."
Ms Stanger said her workforce was usually filled by backpackers, who were hard to come by with COVID-19 restrictions.
"We usually hire backpackers and the only reason I say that is because they are the only ones who are willing to come out here, travel and work in a roadhouse. It's not that we discriminate between Aussies and backpackers, it's just they are the only ones who answer our job ads," she said.
"We have obviously become so reliant in the hospitality industry on having backpackers who are travelling the country and wanting work. Now we don't have those backpackers coming through, we have lost that workforce.
"We have stretched every advertised option and every Facebook page since January, and even when we think we have secured workers, they just don't show up."
If staff cannot be secured, Ms Stanger said having to reduce business hours would affect travellers leading into their busiest time of year.
"Usually our tourism season doesn't start until the end of May, but we are already booked out every night with caravans. We are cooking over a couple hundred meals a day, we have six bus tours already booked in to stop by from May on wards, we've been fully booked out with our accommodation rooms from April through to July and we are getting well over 20 phone calls every day," she said.
"We are going to have to make some hard decisions shortly as to what day or days of the week we stay open, if we reduce opening hours, if we only sell fuel, cold drinks and reduce our menu to toasted sandwiches and quick fried takeaways.
"We have a lot of truckies and travellers that rely on us being open. We have tried shutting before, but it is hard when you have travellers banging on the door who urgently need fuel or water, so what will they do when we are forced to make these hard decisions."
Ms Stanger said sadly she knew they were not the only North West business who was struggling to find staff.
"We put a post on Facebook advising that we are in this situation and we have heard from a lot of other North Queensland businesses who are in the exact same situation," she said.
"Roadhouses, pubs, cafes, are all in the same position from Boulia, Richmond, Hughenden, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mount Isa; who just can't find staff. It's a major issue."
Ms Stanger said if business operations were to change, they would advise everyone through an update on their Burke & Wills Roadhouse Facebook page.
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