Great Barrier Bleached

Coral bleaching, the Great Barrier Reef and potential impacts on tourism
by Tom Swann and Rod Campbell

Research released today by The Australia Institute estimates the tourism industry impacts if severe coral bleaching continues on the Great Barrier Reef.

— Full report in attachment below —

Based on surveys of Chinese, UK, American and domestic tourists, results show that tourism areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef risk losing over 1 million visitors per year, worth over $1 billion in tourism expenditure. This expenditure supports around 10,000 tourism jobs in regional Queensland, which are also considered at-risk.

While many potential visitors will seek out other Australian attractions, this research finds that many will choose to not visit Australia at all. Based on polling of China, UK and USA, almost 175,000 people each year from these countries are more likely to visit a country other than Australia if bleaching persists.

This is the equivalent of 436 Boeing 747 jet loads of holiday makers not coming to Australia each year, and potential lost spending of over $1 billion per year.

“While there has been lots of talk about the potential tourism impacts of coral bleaching, this is the first time anyone has gone to our key tourism markets and asked them what they might do if we aren’t able to better protect the reef,” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said.

“The Chinese market is particularly sensitive, with 55% more likely to visit another country. Among Chinese people who travel regularly, this rate is even higher, up to 65%. Chinese tourists are attracted by Australia’s relatively clean environment, so they respond strongly to changes in that perception.”

“Over a third of Americans say they are less likely to visit Australia if bleaching continues. Again, among Americans that travel overseas regularly, this increases to nearly 60 percent.”

“In the UK just over a quarter of people say they are less likely to visit Australia if bleaching continues.”

“This year’s severe coral bleaching would be ‘nearly impossible’ but for climate change. The tourism areas that escaped the worst this year will not be so lucky again.”

“The regions along the reef could lose a million visitors per year, billions in revenue and 10,000 jobs.”

“Fortunately, the Queensland economy is modern and diverse. Four in five people work in service industries, while only 1 percent work in the coal industry. Policies such as a moratorium on new coal mines can be implemented with a minimal effect on the Queensland economy,” Oquist said.

If the Great Barrier Reef continues to experience severe bleaching and some of the reef dies completely, would you be more likely to choose an alternative holiday destination?

Reef Polling

Source: TAI Surveys, May 2016

Full report