Tourism visitation to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for the calendar year ending 31 December 2020 was reported at approximately 920,000 visitor days. This figure does not include transfer passengers.  Visitation fluctuates depending on tourism trends, weather and global factors.  In comparison, 2.4 million visitor days were reported during the same reporting period for the calendar year ending 30 December 2019.

During 2020, COVID-19 played a significant part in the decline of visitor numbers and as a consequence, this has been a particularly difficult year for the tourism industry along the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Government, amongst other measures has provided support to the tourism industry during this time by waiving charges associated with the Environmental Management Charge and Permit Application and Assessment Fees. Tourism operators have continued to provide their visitation numbers on a voluntary basis during 2020.

The following graphs show tourism visitation to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and to the planning areas. These numbers include full day visits, part day visits, coral viewing activities, scenic flights and visits by those who are exempt from paying the Environmental Management Charge.  Full day visits are the best gauge of the general trend of tourism in the Marine Park.

Important information about this data

  • This data is updated biannually following receipt of Environmental Management Charge returns from commercial tourist operations.
  • The number of visitor days to the Marine Park is calculated at follows:
    • Full day visits – a day trip of more than three hours.
    • Part day visits – a trip that is less than three hours
      • The first day of a trip entering the Marine Park after 5pm
      • The last day of a trip leaving the Marine Park before 6am
    • Exempt visits – passengers who are not required to pay the Environmental Management Charge.
      • Overnight trips are recorded as multiple full days, for example, a stay of two days and one night is recorded as two full days.
      • Children less than 4 years of age
      • People who are engaged in the tourism industry who are visiting the Marine Park for trade familiarisation
      • Passengers for whom another operator has already paid EMC on that day
      • The fourth and subsequent days for passengers on extended charters.
    • Scenic flights – passengers on sight-seeing flights.
    • Coral Viewing – a stand alone activity involving visitors viewing marine life from a semi-submersible or glass bottom boat.  Note: this does not include glass-bottomed and semi-submersible excursions which are ancillary to another tourist program.
  • These graphs do not include transfer passengers (eg. Ferry passengers).
  • The data presented has not been validated.

In previous years log book completion rates have been at 100 per cent.  The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority thanks the tourism industry for continuing to submit this information during these challenging times.

The average percentage of quarterly logbook returns completed for 2020 calendar year was 96 per cent. The breakdowns for each quarter are as follows:

  • January to March 99 per cent
  • April to June 97.5 per cent
  • July to September 97 per cent
  • October to December 91 per cent

Visitation Data

The 2020 aggregated data for visitation is now available in an excel format.