The Great Barrier Reef is recognised as providing unique, high-standard and world-class tourism experiences. Its long-term attractiveness as a tourism destination is largely based on the Great Barrier Reef being the world's largest, best-known and best-managed coral reef which is home to a spectacular and diverse array of species.
As the largest economic contributor to the Australian economy from reef-dependent activities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, marine tourism supports more than 60,000 jobs and provides access for more than 2 million tourists each year.
Tourism is concentrated in about 7 per cent of the total Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. On average, 86 per cent of tourism visits occur within waters adjacent to Cairns, Port Douglas and the Whitsundays. Since 2014, Cairns, Port Douglas and the Whitsundays have remained the highest use areas for marine tourism.
The Reef’s health is critically important to the stability and value of the Reef tourism industry. Declines in Reef health through climate change impacts (particularly marine heat waves), cyclones (Cyclone Debbie in 2017) (Outlook Report 2019) and associated media coverage, have significantly impacted tourism visitation. Other events such as the 2019-2020 bushfires, global financial crises, and particularly the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, have all had further significant impacts on tourism visitation.
Through targeted stewardship programs the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works with Reef-dependent industries to raise awareness, design quality interpretation and encourage best practice actions.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Department of Environment and Science’s Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service have jointly released the final Tourism Management Action Strategy to provide overarching guidance on the future of tourism management in the Reef.