The Great Barrier Reef is special because
a) it’s the largest marine system or reef system anywhere on the planet, it’s one of
the most diverse ecosystems anywhere on the planet and it’s also one of the most accessible.
It attracts nearly two million a year at the moment and that number is increasing year
on year. It’s a really humbling experience when you
first snorkel or dive on the Great Barrier Reef. The complexity, the diversity, the abundance
of life is really quite breathtaking when you see it and it still has that effect. I
can go to the same spots and still have that same experience today.
I get such a kick out of watching people going in the water and “Wow,” and the lights up
off their faces and the little kids when they get close to a turtle or a manta ray, it’s
so exciting. It’s worth more than gold in my mind.
Currently the reef contributes over $5.5 billion directly out of tourism but in the wider community
economic benefits that could flow on, it’s been estimated $15-25 billion. There’s over
730 tourism operators and they employ over 64,000 full time people and the wider reef
employs about 69,000. Coral can’t live out of the water for more
than a couple of hours. Tourism is an amazingly important asset for
the Great Barrier Reef. I came here as a visitor and I fell in love with the reef. I had never
seen the reef before. I’d never seen so much diversity of fish life, of coral, of bird
life. The excitement to me was amazing and I had this burning desire to want to enjoy
it, to share it and protect it. We love guests to come out here, to see it, to fall in love
with it and then they will go away and protect it.
And you just go in carefully. Just like the islands of old, we’ve evolved
and learned. We don’t use little plastic water bottles. We only have recyclable water bottles.
We turn glass back into sand. We fly all of our recyclable rubbish off in the airplanes
every day. We use airplanes that have got the best fuel burn per passenger seat mile
to minimise that environmental impact. We’ve reduced our fuel burn from 550 litres of diesel
a day to around 100 litres a day or about 50,000 litres a year. So it’s a 75% reduction.
That’s why Lady Elliot is so special because we’re right on the edge of the shelf and the
ocean� Tourism is almost a $6 billion a year industry
to the Great Barrier Reef. So it’s a very financially important business, but more importantly
it’s an environmentally important business. We’re doing a good job. The reef has turned
the corner. Great, positive outcomes are occurring and we’re seeing more and more examples of
that, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep the pressure on for finding new
ways, better ways to manage the park. Eye on the Reef is a monitoring program where
tourism operators collect data on key species which we then feed into the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park Authority and the Authority then get the big picture.
We’re out on the reef every day, so we’re able to see change as it’s happening. We can
then alert the authorities and actually have them come up and have a closer look at something
that’s going on whether it be the onset of some coral bleaching or Crown-of-thorn starfish
appearing. We’re finding more and more that our guests are interested in contributing
to the understanding of the Great Barrier Reef. They really want to know that their
visit to the reef isn’t having a negative impact. It’s amazing.
We often have people that are very nervous, they’re very scared of snorkelling, they’re
not great swimmers, so, and are reluctant to get in. We persevere with those people
and we get them in a life jacket, give them a noodle. Once we actually get them in the
water we really struggle to get them back out again at the end of the day. It’s an incredibly
unique environment that everybody should get to see at least once in their life.