Project 4.8.6

Importance of marine wildlife for the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry

Project Leader: Prof Bruce Prideaux, JCU

This MTSRF-funded socioeconomic study of the importance of marine wildlife to the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry is the first to robustly differentiate between visitor spending per se, and visitor spending that can be directly attributed to this type of tourism. Research on the social and economic values of key marine wildlife species has so far established the regional economic contribution of the live-aboard scuba dive tourism industry in Cairns and Port Douglas as greater than $16 million per annum, and has identified a range of key marine animals to which this regional expenditure can be directly attributed. For example, calculations based on mean expenditure figures indicate that dwarf minke whale tourism contributed $20 million to the regional economy during the 2008 season. Surveys of visitor satisfaction revealed that the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of marine wildlife species scored highest overall, and tourists on Far Northern live-aboard trips reported highest satisfaction with interactions with marine turtles, sharks and rays, and dwarf minke whales (on the limited number of winter trips during which dwarf minke whales are in the region, as 90% of sightings occur in June-July). Tourists’ satisfaction with their wildlife experiences is affected by frequency of sightings; tourists reported relatively low satisfaction levels when marine wildlife sightings were less frequent. For example, comparison of survey data across years shows that visitors reported relatively low satisfaction with turtle sightings in 2007, compared to very high levels of satisfaction in 2006 and 2008. This corresponds with the observation that there were unusually low numbers of turtle sightings in the Far Northern region in 2007, compared to other years. The results from this project demonstrate that marine wildlife tourism makes a substantial and important contribution to the Far North Queensland economy. It is not just the transport (boating) sector that benefits: the accommodation, transport, retail and finance, property and business service sectors are significant beneficiaries of the incomes generated by wildlife tourism in the region. These are clear economic reasons - in addition to intrinsic and ecological values - to preserve and protect the marine wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef.





Project 4.8.6 JCU Coghlan, A. and Prideaux, B. (2012) Reef Tourism Third Yearly Report. Patterns of reef tourism on the GBR, Tropical North Queensland and the Whitsundays. Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility, Cairns

Visitor surveys provide valuable marketing and management information on trends in tourism to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This third annual report highlights the results of this year’s surveys collected by partner tour operators at the GBR. A total of 2942 surveys were collected in 2009, bringing the total number of completed surveys to 7569 over the last three years.


Project 4.8.6 JCU Coghlan,A. (2012) Synthesis Report, Analysis of recreational and tourism use and impact on the Great Barrier Reef for managing sustainable tourism


Project 4.8.6(a) JCU Stoeckl, N. et al. (2010) Understanding the social and economic values of key marine species in the Great Barrier Reef: Final Report, June 2010, with a section focusing on marine turtles

Final Report on Project Activities, with a section focusing on marine turtles, June 2010. This final report overviews the results of MTSRF funded research aimed at identifying relative social and economic values of key marine species, including large fish around tourist facilities. A section of this report has also been dedicated to the socio-economic values of marine turtles in relation to scuba diving tourism in the Far Northern Section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


Report Series No. 30 - Coghlan, A. and Prideaux, B. (2009) Reef Tourism: An analysis of the competitiveness of the Great Barrier Reef tourism destination and a comparison with other reef tourism destinations


Report Series No. 17 - McNamara, K. and Prideaux, B. (2008) Tourist Exit Survey First Annual Report: January - December 2007. Annual and Quarterly Patterns of Reef and Rainforest Tourism in North Queensland from Exit Surveys Conducted at Cairns Domestic Airport


Report Series No. 8 - Coghlan, A. and Prideaux, B. (2008) Reef Tourism First Yearly Report: November 2006 - October 2007


Project 4.8.6 JCU Prideaux, B. (2007) Reef Tourism: Establishment of Visitor Monitoring Structure

Unpublished report completed in February 2007 by B. Prideaux and A. Coghlan, School of Business, James Cook University.