HALLS GAP operators are rejoicing tourism has 'bounced back' - but the influx of visitors also comes with a burden of challenges.
With international borders locked and state borders guarded, many tourists have flocked to the Grampians for their summer getaway.
Some businesses have found this time of year to be busier than expected, but they have been unable to find the staff required to help serve the thousands of Grampians tourists and residents from the area.
Grampians Tourism has seen a significant growth in visitation since the 'ring of steel' was lifted.
Owner and manager of Flame Brothers Restaurant and Bar Damon Hendricksen said his restaurant struggled to handle and balance the excess workload.
"It is actually harder now in this busy holiday period than we ever expected it to be and this comes down to the short staffing issue," he said.
"I was pretty adequately staffed, but there has been a knock-on effect of other business who are short-staffed.
"There are a couple of businesses that are closed two days a week because they are short-staffed, this puts more pressure on us on those days, which requires even more staff so we're spread quite thin on those days."
Mr Hendricksen also said his restaurant was also stuck trying to manage the expectations of their customers, without the required number of staff.
"Your damned if you do and damned if you don't. If we close the doors for two days a week, then people go home hungry and if you stay open on those other days and run a bit short, then people get upset because you can't serve them," he said.
"We are coping a lot of complaints from people. We have had to open the kitchen early or not do take-away for a period of time just because the restaurant is so busy that we can't manage that many orders without pushing out to 45 minutes to an hour wait times and I refuse to give people that kind of service."
Mr Hendricksen said a lack of accommodation options and not enough residents willing to commute for work were making it hard to find staff.
"There's sort of a whole combination of problems that can't really be fixed unless they are fixed at the same time," he said.
"Employment can't be fixed without accommodation, accommodation can't be fixed without money, and the infrastructure is not quite prepared for the number of tourists that have come to the area.
"There is a lot of interest from Melbourne people who can't find jobs down there, but there is just nowhere for them to live and people aren't willing to commute from somewhere like Ararat to work here."
As an alternative solution, Mr Hendricksen said he had been working with local tourism operators to bring food trucks to the area to help ease the pressure.
"Previously other operators have been upset they (the food trucks) have created extra competition, but I think at this time because so many extra people are travelling around Victoria, having dedicated spaces for food trucks would help alleviate some of that stress," he said.
"We are working really hard to find a solution because it is horrible and we don't want to go through this again over the Easter long weekend or Australia Day long weekend."
Mr Hendricksen is also looking at expanding his services by opening a fish and chip shop in Halls Gap.
"Originally we were looking to open the fish and chips shop in mid-late January, but there's no way we could accommodate that through being too busy and not having enough staff on if we did open it, so we are looking at mid to late February at this stage," he said.
Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said his organisation was working with councils across the Grampians region in attracting workers to help businesses cater for the influx.
"What a fantastic problem to have," he said.
"A longer-term solution is to fill the roles to enable businesses to operate at 100 per cent.
"We've got Grampians Life campaign that rolled out last month and that's already seen more than 40 people fill in all the forms and register their interest to move to the region."
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