The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has just released their Outlook Report 2014, and with it some positive statistics for tourism, and for ECO certified tourism operators within the Marine Park.
Tourism in the area has seen a sustained recovering in 2012 and 2013, positive news after a 16 per cent decline in tourist numbers between 2005 and 2011. In 2013, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park saw visits by close to 1.9 million tourists on commercial tourism operations, with tourism continuing to make a significant contribution to management, presentation, and economic value of the Great Barrier Reef.
In the 2011-12 financial year, tourism in the Great Barrier Reef and its catchment area contributed approximately$5.2 billion to the Australian Economy and made up 90 per cent of all full-time positions derived from the Great Barrier Reef. The total economic contribution made through commercial and non-commercial use was close to $5.6 billion.
In 2013, 64% of tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef chose tourism operations with Ecotourism Australia’s ECO certification. The number of reef-based tourism operations with ECO certification has also seen a steady increase, from 44 operators in 2009 to 64 in 2013.
GBRMPA monitors the conduct of all tourism operations, particularly those within areas of high use and sensitivity, and the impacts of tourism are localised to a few intensively managed areas. GBRMPA aim to minimise the negative impacts of tourism on the reef by such means as capping permit types, defining maximum group and vessel sizes in individual locations, and rewarding tourism operators with ECO certification with extended permits and marketing benefits. The tourism industry within the park is a key partner in its protection and management, with tourism operators acting as active stewards of the Reef and High Standard Tourism Operators demonstrating their commitment to ecologically sustainable use of the reef through independently seeking ECO certification.