Guidelines for Making Bookings to Planning Areas and Sensitive Locations

These guidelines provide a consistent and transparent process for management agencies and tourism operators in making a booking that is complementary to and clarifies current management arrangements.

You may also find the set of frequently asked questions helpful in understanding booking arrangements and requirements.

What is a booking?

A booking provides tourism operations and cruise ship operations guaranteed access to Planning Areas and Sensitive Locations within Planning Areas and Cruise Ship anchorages for a specific period of time through registration with the GBRMPA. Where a booking is made, you are granted access for a 24-hour period commencing at midnight on the day of the booking.

Who needs to book?

Tourism operations accessing Plan of Management areas and/or Sensitive Locations and large vessels and cruise ships accessing designated cruise ship anchorages are required to book unless otherwise endorsed on your permit. Individual permits may contain endorsements that provide access to Planning Areas and Sensitive Locations without the need to obtain a booking. Tourism operations generally fall into three categories:

Standard and limited tourism operations (50-day operation)

  • Must book to access Planning Areas and Sensitive Locations.

Regional and open tour operations (365-day operation)

  • Not required to book to a Planning Area for which an endorsement is held
  • Must book to Sensitive Locations unless otherwise endorsed.

Cruise ships and large vessels

  • Must book to access a Planning Area unless an endorsement is held
  • Must book to access cruise ship anchorages.

Note: Other tourism operations have specific controls and therefore are not required to book.

Registering a booking

To register a booking you must provide the following:

  • Name and contact details of person making the booking
  • Permit number
  • Vehicle type
  • Vehicle name
  • Vessel Identification Number (VIN) (if you have one)
  • Vehicle size
  • Which Planning Area
  • Which Location or Cruise Ship anchorage
  • Booking dates - from and to
  • Group size (includes crew and passengers over four years of age).

National Park islands 

Should you wish to access National Park islands during your visit you will require a Commercial Activity permit. To apply for a Commercial Activity permit you should contact your local Queensland Parks and Wildlife (QPWS) office.

Allocation of bookings

  • Bookings will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis
  • A booking may be made on the day of visitation but must be made prior to accessing the Planning Area or Sensitive Location
  • Bookings can be made up to three years in advance
  • Consecutive bookings may be made for a period of up to seven days to a specific Location
  • If you require more than seven consecutive days to a Location you may contact the relevant agency for a consideration.

Cancellations and 'no shows'

Cancellations will only be accepted up until 7pm on the day before the booking. If no cancellation is made, the booking will be counted as a day used (but not for the purposes of EMC). A booking made on the day of use cannot be subsequently cancelled.

Limits on bookings

All operators are limited to 50 days access to Planning Areas including Sensitive Locations unless specifically endorsed for greater access on your permit. For the number of bookings available to each of the Planning Areas, you should refer to the guides on making a Cairns booking, making a Hinchinbrook booking and making a Whitsundays booking.

A vessel cannot operate across multiple permits for the purpose of gaining greater access (this practice is referred to as 'back-to-backing' permits). Unless otherwise endorsed, access will be limited to 50 days access per year, per vessel. The only exception to this is where you can clearly demonstrate to the satisfaction of the GBRMPA that the vessel is not being used for the same operation.

Cruise ships are also subject to one cruise ship or large vessel per cruise ship anchorage except at Turtle Bay in the Whitsunday Planning Area. Aircraft and cruise ship bookings are not included in the total number of bookings available for the Cairns Planning Area.

Visitation using a booking

Where a booking is required it must be made before accessing the Planning Areas, Sensitive Locations or cruise ship anchorages.

Planning Areas

A single booking to access a Planning Areas provides for:

  • Unlimited entries by the booked vessel with a single group within the booking period, or
  • Unlimited entries by the booked vessel with different (multiple) groups within the booking period.

Sensitive Locations

A single booking to access a Sensitive Location provides for:

  • Unlimited entries by the booked vessel to the Sensitive Location with a single group within the booking period.

Should you require multiple entries to a Sensitive Location with different (multiple) groups, a booking must be made for each entry to the Sensitive Location.

Calculating usage

There are a range of tourism permits that provide for differing levels of access to Planning Areas and Sensitive Locations. To ensure that usage is calculated uniformly and that booking limits are adhered to, the following rules will be applied when calculating usage:

  • Bookings to Sensitive Locations will also be considered a booking to the Planning Area unless you hold an endorsement for that Planning Area
  • Multiple visits with a single group to a Planning Area or Sensitive Location will only equal one day of access
  • Multiple bookings on the same day to different Sensitive Locations will equal one day of access to the Planning Area
  • Multiple bookings on the same day to different Sensitive Locations will equal one day access to each Sensitive Location visited but will only count as one day to the Planning Area
  • Where a booking has been made and no cancellation has been recorded the booking will count as a day's usage (but not for the purpose of the EMC)
  • Bookings are calculated on a rolling annual calendar from the date of the booking and the total number of bookings must not exceed 50 bookings in the previous 365 days.

Note: Refer to the

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