Visitation to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for the financial year ending 30 June 2020 was reported at approximately 1.79 million visitor days. This figure does not include transfer passengers. Visitation fluctuates depending on tourism trends, weather and global factors including the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison, 2.46 million visitor days were reported during the same reporting period for the financial year ending 30 June 2019.

The following graphs show 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.

Great Barrier Reef tourist numbers

Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef can be broadly divided into two groups:

  • People who access the Marine Park as part of a commercial tour operation (tourists).
  • People who access the Marine Park independently. For example, either in a privately owned vessel or directly off a beach (Independent recreational users).

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority collects data on the number of tourists visiting the Marine Park from tourism operators. For each commercial tourism vessel operating in the Marine Park, information is collected on the number of visitors carried by the operator each day and the locations visited. Tourism operators supply this information when submitting their environmental management charge.

Important information about this data

It should be noted that in past years 100 per cent of tourism operators had completed and submitted their logbooks. As of September 2020, 95 per cent of operators had submitted their logbooks for the January to March 2020 quarter and 91 per cent for the April to June 2020 quarter.

  • This data represents visitors to the Great Barrier Reef who used commercial tourist operations.
  • 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 as 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 four 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.

Visitation Data

The 2019–20 aggregated data for visitation is now available in an excel format.