GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
Ports and shipping have been separated in this Outlook Report because of the differences in their likely impacts and management arrangements. Educational activities have been included with research to recognise use of the Region for primary, secondary and tertiary education. Some of the activities assessed are directly dependent on the Region’s natural resources (Reef-dependent) and others are carried out regardless of the natural environment (not Reef-dependent). Examples of Reefdependent activities are traditional use of marine resources, commercial marine tourism, fishing, recreation, and research and educational activities. Reef-dependent activities are likely to be more sensitive to changes in the condition of the Region’s values.6 Examples of activities not dependent on the Reef include shipping, ports and defence activities. Commercial and non-commercial uses occurring outside the Region that may indirectly affect its ecosystem and heritage values are considered in Chapter 6.
5.2 Commercial marine tourism
5.2.1 Current state and trends of commercial marine tourism
The long-term attractiveness of the Region as a tourism destination is largely based on the Great Barrier Reef’s reputation as the world’s largest and best known coral reef ecosystem — one that has spectacular and diverse species — combined with high standard tourism and protected area management. The Region’s tourism industry is almost exclusively nature-based, with coral reefs and islands as the focus, and is reliant on an intact Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. There are opportunities to see iconic wildlife such as whales, marine turtles, sharks and seabirds and to go boating, diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing, hiking, camping or to enjoy various water sports. Swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving and viewing animals are consistently popular tourist activities (Figure 5.2). The industry offers a wide range of tourism experiences, from cruise ships and live-aboard vessels to day trips on high speed catamarans, fishing charters and kayaking tours.
Commercial marine tourism continues to be a significant use of the Reef.
Figure 5.2 reef activities undertaken by tourists departing cairns, 2008–2012
Surveys of tourists departing from Cairns (a sample of 4337 people) showed swimming and snorkelling to be the most popular activities undertaken. No surveys were taken in 2011. Source: Prideaux et al. 20137
Commercial marine tourism continues to be the most significant use of the Reef — both in terms of economic value and employment. Tourism activity in the Great Barrier Reef remains focused in a small portion of the Region with about 83 per cent of all tourism activity occurring in about seven per cent of the Region during 2013 (Figure 5.3). In that year, about 40 per cent of the full day visits took place in the Cairns Planning Area (offshore from Cairns and Port Douglas) compared with 44 per cent in 2008. For the Whitsunday Planning Area (the Whitsunday islands and adjacent reefs), there was the same proportion of the full day visits in 2013 compared with 2008 (43 per cent). After a peak in 2004–05, visitor days to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park declined by more than 16 per cent between 2005 and 2011 (Figure 5.4). The decline was attributable to a range of factors, including the high exchange rate of the Australian dollar, increased competition from international destinations, extreme weather events and the global financial crisis. Tourism is showing signs of a sustained recovery across the Marine Park and visitation in 2013 has increased by approximately 60,000 since 2012.8 Visitation to the Cairns Planning Area is recovering strongly. Much of this result is attributable to attracting new Chinese tourists and the recovery of some traditional markets such as Japan. Visitation to the Whitsunday Planning Area and southern areas of the Region is also now recovering.
Reef visitation is recovering after many years of decline.