Climate change impacts on the tourism industry

The health of the Reef and the sustainability of its $5 billion tourism industry are inextricably linked.

In recent years, the tourism industry has experienced significant changes in visitation to the Great Barrier Reef as well as changes in the quality of many Reef sites affected by coral bleaching, poor water quality and the impacts of the crown-of-thorns starfish.

The increasing frequency and intensity of storms and cyclones has also impacted opportunities for Reef experiences.


For the tourism industry, the national and international publicity associated with coral bleaching and the image of the Great Barrier Reef as being ‘damaged’ by climate change could create a negative image of the Reef and effectively reduce visitor numbers.

In this sense, the tourism industry is seen as being potentially vulnerable to negative messages about coral bleaching and the impacts of climate change.


The ability to adapt to challenges has long been a key strength of the tourism industry. The industry has made it through challenges such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the global epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). These and other events have shown the resilience of the industry and its ability to reinvent itself in the face of difficult conditions.