World class natural assets such as the Great Barrier Reef are key drivers of tourism to Australia but industry workers warn the quality of these drawcards are diminishing.
Airlie Beach dive instructor Tony Fontes said he took numerous tourists to dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef and noticed the reef was starting to succumb to human pressures.
“The reef is in remarkably good shape compared to other reefs around the world but unfortunately it is starting to succumb to human pressures of all sorts,” Mr Fontes said.
Tourism Australia Managing director John O’Sullivan said Australia welcomed 1.6 million visitors each year with beautiful world class natural environments ranking in the top 4 key drivers of tourists to Australia.
“We are about telling the story that is so unique about Australian tourism and the key part of that is assets such as the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“We also work with a number of groups in the eco-tourism area, our natural assets are a very important part of our tourism offering,” he said.
While the reef is gradually declining in quality, the effects are not as noticeable to tourists as may have been expected.
“It’s one of those things were you had to have been here yesterday to see the effects of today,” Mr Fontes said.
“It’s kind of sad that people accept that what they see is the best reef in the world, which it is, but it used to be better.”
Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director Felicity Wishart said reef tourism was an integral part to the economic future of Queensland “which is why we need to start looking after our assets now”.
“If we want the reef to be a big part of tourism in the future, we need to put more resources into cleaning up the water quality so the reef can recover,” Ms Wishart said.
Ms Wishart said the state government should be putting their money into reef management rather than campaigns such as Reef Facts which was launched earlier this year.
“At the moment the Queensland government are spending money on a campaign trying to counteract the concerns from the community about reef management, imagine if they were putting that money into tourism promotion or protecting the reef,” she said.
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell was approached for comment but was unavailable.
A document released earlier this year about the Reef Facts campaign highlighted the need for greater fact accuracy and the desire to create a greater balance between business and environment.
“Australia is an island and ports are the lifeblood of our economy, we can strike a balance between sensible and safe port development and continued protection of our precious reef,” according to Minister Powell.