Taking a Different Angle

Here’s a more uplifting angle to my recent article “They Don’t Need A Visa To Have Fun” in The Sunday Telegraph. Softer news angle but no less interesting in my opinion:

They are lured by promises of sunny weather, photos of beautiful beaches and plenty of easy fun to be had and, with the climate grim overseas, backpackers are flocking to our shores in ever greater numbers.

In 2008/09 Australia reached record levels of working holiday makers; visas granted in the UK and Ireland, two of our largest overseas markets, were up by 17 percent and 33 percent respectively.

In the US, Tourism Australia has been urging young Americans to “come out and play” on their new website launched in November 2009, and they have heeded the call; the introduction of a new Working Holiday Maker Visa has seen local numbers increase by 117 percent.

Most young overseas visitors fit the image of the typical gap year student.

In their late teens or early twenties, they come for a great time out – party hard, have fun and explore Downunder -, before heading back to their home country to buckle down and study.

Swede Martena Bengtsson, 19, who was topping up her tan on popular Bondi Beach last Wednesday told The Sunday Telegraph she had always wanted to travel after finishing school and chose her destination based on her friends’ feedback.

“There’s so many backpackers here and I’d heard so much about it.”

But the global financial crisis has also driven an older version of the traditional backpacker to Australia.

Matt Hingerty from the Australian Tourism Export Council said there have been two types of new backpackers, those who “come back later in life, as couples etc to do things they couldn’t do earlier in life” and those who had less options in their home countries.

“A lot of young people in these [overseas] markets had nowhere to go,” he said – as there were no jobs in Europe.

When we met travellers Anthony Breen, 25, his brother Rickie, 24, and their friend Eddie Kyriacou, 27, they were relaxing at Bondi Beach after several hard weeks of partying in Thailand and Australia, but the Irish professionals were not planning on living the backpacker lifestyle for long.

The Breen brothers worked as accountants at the same company in Ireland and decided to save up for a brighter future in Sydney after witnessing paycuts and redundancies over the past two years.

Their friend Eddie had been in a similar situation. He described the climate back home as “depressing”. He said, while his job was secure, there were no plans, no career options.

In less than two weeks of holidays in Australia, Rickie had already made up his mind.

“I don’t want to go back to Ireland,” he said.

Instead, he was looking to work on a farm for three months to maximise his chances of settling in Australia by gaining an additional one-year visa extension.

“Career opportunities at home? There is none,” added Eddie.

“Here you have some sort of future.”

You’ll find the  published article, written with Brenden Hills, here.

Leave a Comment