Tourism is a major industry along the Great Barrier Reef coastline and it contributes exponentially to both the Queensland and Australian economy. Prior to COVID-19, up to 2 million visits are made each year to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by visitors using a tourism operation.
These visitors usually pay an environmental management charge. It is a way for visitors to contribute to keeping the Great Barrier Reef great for future generations to enjoy.
The Environmental Management Charge funds received by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are vitally important in the day-to-day management of the Marine Park.
- It is used to monitor, manage and improve the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef, with the money applied across all aspects of Marine Park management including:
- education and research
- ranger patrols
- site planning
- public moorings
- reef protection markers
- information signs and maps.
Tourism visitation to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for the financial year ending 30 June 2022 was reported as 1,391,231 visitor days. This is a 22.11 percent increase on 2020-2021 financial year. Yearly visitation to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has however decreased by around 41 per cent when compared to the previous eight financial years pre-pandemic average (2012-13 to 2019-20). Declines vary across regions and industry sectors.
Since February 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic has played a significant part in the decline of visitor numbers and consequently, it has been particularly difficult for the tourism industry along the Great Barrier Reef. On a positive note, there is cautious optimism in the marine tourism industry on visitation recovery.
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 related fees to 30 June 2023. Visitation data is vital to industry and the management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and operators are encouraged to continue submitting it quarterly.
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 usually 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 (e.g. ferry passengers).
- The data presented has not been validated.
- The average percentage of quarterly logbook returns completed for 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years are as follows:
- 2020-21 financial year - 99 per cent
- 2021-22 financial year - 95.4 per cent
The 2021-2022 financial year aggregated data for visitation is available in an excel format.