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Tourism Management Action Strategy

The marine tourism industry is a key partner in the protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef and has provided invaluable input to the development of the new Tourism Management Action Strategy.  

Tourism operators help showcase the Reef’s natural values, enhance visitor experiences of the Reef, and play an important role in protecting the amazing biodiversity that supports their industry.

The following are programs that partner with our tourism industry operators to promote the world heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef and how we can work together to protect it.

High Standard Tourism Operators

High Standard Tourism Operators voluntarily operate to a higher standard than required by legislation as part of their commitment to ecologically sustainable use. These operators are independently certified as meeting best practice management standards for the key areas of protection, presentation and partnership.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority encourages tourism operations to adopt high standards for protection, presentation and partnership within the Marine Park. These standards enhance environmental protection, reef resilience and tourism sustainability.

We rely on independent certification to identify high-standard operations. Two recognised independent certification schemes – administered by Ecotourism Australia and EarthCheck–provide appropriate levels of environmental certification for high-standard tourism in the Marine Park.

Both of these certification schemes identify and monitor high-standard tourism operations. Other certification schemes may be approved based on standard assessment criteria and a straightforward assessment process.

How can operators obtain certification?

Tourism businesses that are operating to a high standard in the Marine Park can apply to become certified, by contacting either EarthCheck or Ecotourism Australia and demonstrating that their operations meet the required levels of their scheme.

Interested Marine Park tourism operators are encouraged to review the available schemes and levels of certification and choose a scheme and certification level that best suits their own operations.

  • Ecotourism Australia and EarthCheck each provide two levels of certification that are acceptable under the agency's assessment criteria for high standard tourism operations:
  • High standard tourism operations can be certified by Ecotourism Australia, at either the Ecotourism or Advanced Ecotourism levels.
  • High standard tourism operators can be certified by EarthCheck at either the EarthCheck Certified or EarthCheck Evaluate levels.
Tourism Experience Indigenous Cultural Snorkel Dive Queensland

Are there benefits to becoming certified?

The agency has developed benefits to both reward high-standard operators and provide incentives for other operators to improve their performance. The major benefit offered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is an extended permit term of 20 years for tourism program permits.

Operators who are certified by either of the above schemes and qualify to become a recognised high-standard tourism operator can be eligible to apply for a 20-year permit for a certified tourism product.

Applicants will need to complete the Marine Parks permit application form and provide evidence of their certification. The application will be assessed as per standard assessment timeframes, and an assessment fee will apply.

In addition, certified operators are listed on our website and are showcased at various trade events (for example, the Australian Tourism Exchange).

Eye on the Reef

There are also many tour operators situated across the Marine Park who regularly work in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to monitor the Reef through Eye on the Reef.

  • Sightings Network is for everyone who visits the Reef daily, weekly, yearly or once in a lifetime.
  • Rapid Monitoring is for anyone who wants to learn about coral reef biology and then contribute to our knowledge of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Tourism Weekly Monitoring is for dedicated tourism staff working on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Reef Health and Impact Survey is for those with prior Reef or monitoring experience, or a motivation to learn.

Master Reef Guides

Master Reef Guides in the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry play a vital role in presenting the values of the World Heritage Area to millions of visitors annually. Providing storytellers and ambassadors within the tourism industry with up-to-date management in place to protect those values.

Master Reef Guides will not only provide up-to-date information on the Reef, but share their stories and experiences, explain how you can get involved in reef protection, and provide tips and tricks to help the Reef from anywhere in the world.

The Master Reef Guide program is delivered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and Tourism and Events Queensland and is the first of its kind for the Reef.

Master Reef Guide Tourism Operators Queensland Australia

Tackling climate change in Tourism

The strategy was jointly developed by the Great Barrier Reef Tourism Climate Change Action Group, a partnership of government agencies, industry groups and tourism operators.

What are tourism operators doing now?

  • Tourism operators are working with us to reduce their impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Some operators are:
  • calculating and reducing their carbon emissions
  • trialling alternative energy sources such as biofuels
  • becoming climate action certified through Ecotourism Australia
  • offsetting the emissions created by their business.

We have developed tools to assist tourism operators in reducing their emissions and adapting to climate change. These tools include:

Citizen Science Snapshot Reef Health Queensland Tourism Management
Updated 13 Dec 2022
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