A visitor monitoring survey: the case of the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry


Marketed internationally as an iconic tourism experience, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) faces a range of issues similar to those faced by coral reefs in other parts of the world. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GRBMPA), the management body responsible for the reef, 1.9 million tourists visit the reef annually, using marine tour operators that offer a wide range of tour products. Management of the tourism industry is based on a zoning system that requires natural and social science input. Data on visitor experiences and satisfaction have been collected in the past by CRC Reef Research, and more recently by a new long-term reporting system of reef tourist visitation supported by the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) funded by the Australian Federal Government. The sustainability of this industry is influenced by a range of natural (climate change, crown-of-thorns, etc.) and social (rising cost of fuel, changing travel patters, emerging markets) issues. These issues are reviewed followed by analysis of the reef tourism experience within this natural and social context. Data used in this analysis were drawn from a visitor monitoring survey that is discussed in this article. The monitoring program was designed to collect data that can be compared on a monthly and annual basis to enable comparison over time with the aim of identifying emerging social and environmental issues and threats to determine their effect on the sustainability of reef tourism. Finally, the article identifies a number of solutions and strategies that may be available to tourism operators.

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