Whitsunday tourism opportunities open up for operators

Eleven permits for the Whitsundays region are now up for grabs through an expression of interest process run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

These special permissions improve access to the Whitsunday Planning Area, especially for tourism operators, and will be allocated through a two-phase application and assessment process.

Great Barrier Marine Park Authority policy and planning director Belinda Jago encouraged any interested operators or individuals to submit an expression of interest for these rare opportunities.

“The opportunities now available do not come around regularly and so we are pleased to be opening up further prospects for ecologically-sustainable tourism and use in the area,” she said.

“These permits mean businesses or vessel owners can apply to offer new tourism services in the area or apply for private mooring permissions.

“We want people to visit the area, learn about the Great Barrier Reef’s ecological value and wonder, and then be inspired to share Reef information with friends and family and contribute to the Reef’s health when they get home.

“Tourism operators are key sharers of information about the Reef and are invaluable stakeholders in its future.”

The available permissions on offer include conducting daily regional scenic flight tours using a fixed-wing aircraft and daily operations from Bowen.

The third type of permissions are for three private moorings in the Woodwark Bay South Location.

Interested applicants may also wish to comment on the draft Woodwark Bay Site Plan, which will govern the mooring opportunities.

Applicants for the special permissions can expect a two-phase process starting with an expression of interest, which includes a lodgement fee.

The Marine Park Authority will assess proposals against criteria, with the long-term benefit of the Reef in mind.

“Protection of the Marine Park’s values is something we will be looking for in the expressions of interest,” Ms Jago said.

“For example, seeing environmental best practice and use of sustainability-focused technologies from the applicant."

The Whitsundays is a key tourism destination for Queensland and attracts the most number of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef.

Latest statistics from Tourism and Events Queensland show the region welcomed 760,000 overnight visitors for the year ending September 2017 and contributed $529 million to the gross regional product.

More information about the special permissions expression of interest process are available on the Marine Park Authority's website www.gbrmpa.gov.au