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Great Barrier Reef tourist numbers

Tourism visitation to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for the 2023 calendar year was reported at approximately 2 million total visitor days (2,133,622).  Whilst visitation in 2023 was 12.9% less than the seven-year pre-pandemic average of 2.45 million visits, it has increased post-pandemic in the past 2 consecutive years; ie 5.6% increase from 2022 to 2023, and 17.5% increase from 2021 to 2022.  

Some regions are still waiting to return to the pre-pandemic averages, although others have seen an increase in visitation.  Whilst small, the Whitsunday Plan of Management Area had an increase of 1% (9,870) additional tourist visitors to their pre-pandemic average; whereas Cairns Area Plan of Management had 27% less visitor days to their pre-pandemic figures.  However, the Cairns region has seen a 14% increase when compared to visitation data for 2022.

The following graphs show tourism visitation to the whole Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and then 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. These figures do not include transfer passengers and the data has not been validated.

Important information about this data

This data is updated biannually following receipt of the 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 (e.g. ferry passengers)
  • The data presented has not been validated.


In previous years (pre-pandemic) log book completion rates have been at 100 per cent.  The Reef Authority thanks the tourism industry for continuing to submit this information during these challenging times.

  • The average percentage of quarterly logbook returns completed over the past four years (2020 to 2023) calendar years are as follows:
  • 2020 calendar year was 99.2 per cent
  • 2021 calendar year was 99.1 per cent
  • 2022 calendar year was 97.2 per cent
  • 2023 calendar year was 97.3 per cent

Visitation Data

The 2023 aggregated data for visitation is Now Available in an excel format.

Visitation by calendar year – Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Visitation by calendar year – Cairns Planning Area

Visitation by calendar year – Cairns-Cooktown management area

Visitation by calendar year – Far Northern management area

Visitation by calendar year – Hinchinbrook planning area

Visitation by calendar year – Mackay-Capricorn management area

Visitation by calendar year – Mackay-Capricorn management area

Visitation by calendar year – Whitsunday planning area

Visitation by calendar year – Whitsunday planning area

Aircraft visitation by calendar year

Bareboat visitation by calendar year

Cruise Ship visitation by calendar year

Updated 5 Apr 2024
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