Visitors to the South Coast have been warned to expect long waits and early closing times with tourism operators struggling to hire the staff needed this summer.
The lack of backpackers has been blamed for a shortage of casual workers with restrictions on international arrivals putting pressure on hospitality in particular.
Business owners say they're struggling to retain local staff as an influx of Airbnbs pushes young people out of the rental market.
Bermagui bakery owner Honor Northam said to expand her business she'll consider purchasing a house to accommodate staff.
There are currently about 20 Airbnbs listed in the town of around 1600 and almost no rentals available.
Ms Northan said the rental market was adding to the pressure felt by business owners in the region.
"It feels like this extra pressure because for the last two years we've not really had a summer," she said.
"We're all relying on this sort of comeback summer even though it's going to be very wet."
Baker Chloe Spear moved from Canberra to Bermagui four years ago.
She moved into a campervan on her partner's parents' property when her previous rental sold as there was just nothing else available.
"It was very difficult then and it's only getting more difficult," she said.
Ms Spear has mates and colleagues who have been on real estate agent wait lists for months.
"It's holiday homes taking up the bulk of what's here, so we can see empty houses all around us," she said.
Ms Spears said there are constantly posts on the local Facebook group from people looking for rentals.
She said people are reporting living in caravans and tents with children and businesses being unable to fill shifts.
"There's probably at least five to 10 businesses in town currently looking for staff that they just can't get," she said.
Staff vacancy notices are up at Alfresco's Coffee Roasters, Swans Takeaway and the health cafe on Church Street in Moruya.
In Batemans Bay the situation is no different, with Starfish restaurant and JJ's at The Marina both having to reduce their operating hours due to staff shortages.
Batemans Bay business chamber president David Maclachlan said while hospitality operators hoped positions might be filled now school and university had wrapped up, skilled workers remained a problem.
"When things started shutting down people migrated out of hospitality, so getting them back is really difficult," he said.
"It's hard to get people outside the area because the first thing they ask is, 'have you've got accommodation for me?'"
Mr Maclachlan opened the Batemans Bay Lodge several months ago. He said they've been unable to serve breakfast at the hotel because they can't find a chef or the right staff, despite advertising on several different platforms for weeks.
The opening of the hotel bar has been delayed until January 2022 for the same reason.
"We're really short," he said. "We still need housekeepers, everyone needs housekeepers.
"When things started shutting down with COVID people migrated out of these industries, they just did other jobs, getting them back is going to be very difficult."
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