Frog Fish, Australia
Frog Fish, Australia

Tourists are hurrying to experience Australia’s Great Barrier Reef before it’s gone, says new report.
They are predominantly older, more environmentally conscious women who are visiting the region for the first time. Respondents seeking a last chance experience were also found to be more concerned about the health of the reef.

The tourism industry on the Great Barrier Reef is important to Australia’s economy, with over 1.9 million tourist visitor days in 2013. The industry supports 65,000 full-time jobs, through both direct and indirect employment, and provides $5.2 billion dollars to the Australian economy annually. Some tourism managers on the GBR have expressed concern that increased reports pertaining to the deterioration of reef health will lead to increased visitation in the short term which in turn will lead to greater impacts on the region in the long term.

Last chance tourism is a niche tourism market focused on witnessing and experiencing a place before it disappears. This can lead to a paradox. Tourists visiting a destination due to its perceived status of being in danger of disappearing forever, may further deteriorate the destination through activities associated with tourism.

In the current climate, last chance tourism is occurring on an even larger scale with entire ecosystems at risk of disappearing within one’s lifetime. This has been brought about largely from the level and rate at which humans are themselves contributing to changes to ecosystems, with the most obvious example being climate change but also from changes in land use, increased levels of pollution as well as growing population pressures.

The Great Barrier Reef

The GBR is the largest living coral reef ecosystem on the planet stretching 2300 km from just north of Bundaberg in the south to above the tip of Queensland in the north. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was created in 1975, encompassing the GBR, and managed primarily by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in collaboration with the Queensland Government under a joint management agreement. The width of the Marine Park fluctuates between 60 and 250 km, covering a total area of 344,400 km2. The GBR is recognised as having Outstanding Universal Value, defined by UNESCO as “natural significance, which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity”.

Giant Clam, Australia
Giant Clam, Australia

The natural value of the GBR can be found in its high and unique biodiversity, which has gained it recognition as one of the most important ecosystems in the world. The GBR is home to over 400 species of hard coral, 150 species of soft coral, 1625 species of fish, as well as 30 species of whales and dolphins, six of the world’s seven marine turtle species, dugongs, and numerous species of sharks, sea birds and molluscs.

Further Reading

Last chance tourism and the Great Barrier Reef, Annah E. Piggott-McKellar & Karen E. McNamara 09 Aug 2016.

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