Researchers from the Australian Institute are warning that continued coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef could result in a loss of $ 1 Billion dollars in tourism revenue to the country. This report coming just a week after the Austrlian Government pledged the same amount $1 Billion dollars to protect coral reefs.
The institute surveyed more than 3,000 Chinese, US and UK visitors, as well as 1,400 domestic tourists. The Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were selected by international respondents as being their top Australian tourist attractions.
ABC reports that one of the survey questions in the Australia Institute research asked respondents: “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?”
More than one-third of Americans responded yes, with 27 per cent of UK tourist and 55 per cent of Chinese also saying the lost of coral would likely influence them to choose a different holiday location. “Across those three countries there are 175,000 tourists who risk not coming to Australia at all if the reef continues to be bleached,” the Australia Institute’s executive director Ben Oquist said.
The research states that nearly 900,000 Australian tourists would most likely choose somewhere else to visit if the reef continues to experience bleaching.
“Along with visitor numbers, the potential loss of tourism revenue represents almost one-third of the $3.3 billion spent by holiday visitors to reef regions each year, which supports between 39,000 and 45,000 jobs,” the Australia Institute’s report states.
“Around 10,000 jobs are at risk from decreased visitation and spending if severe coral bleaching of the reef continues.”
“I definitely agree with [the research findings],” said John Rumney, who’s been running reef tours off far north Queensland for 40 years. “As soon as the reef passes that critical point, that tipping point, and we don’t have something nice to show people, they’ll stop coming.”
Tourism industry representatives have been critical of media coverage of the coral bleaching, arguing it has created an international perception that the reef was dying. According to The Guardian, some Cairns operators have reportedly refused to take journalists out on the reef for fear of feeding more negative publicity.
But veteran reef tour operator John Rumney said it was time his industry openly debated the future of the Great Barrier Reef. “Everyone in the reef business knows in their hearts that their business is related to a healthy reef. It’s just they’re afraid to say anything about it because it will be construed as ‘oh it’s bad now, it’s too late’. No, if we don’t take any action it will be too late.”