Mitigation and adaptation in the Great Barrier Reef marine tourism industry — ASN Events

Mitigation and adaptation in the Great Barrier Reef marine tourism industry (7875)

Jessica Hoey 1
  1. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville, QLD, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is recognised as one of the nation’s tourism strengths and has an international reputation as the world's largest and best known coral reef. The commercial marine tourism industry relies on a resilient and healthy Great Barrier Reef to continue to position itself as a top travel destination. Tourism is the most significant direct use of the Region (both economic value and employment). Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to coral reefs worldwide and the tourism industry could be one of the ‘biggest losers’. Rather than adopting a defeatist attitude to climate change the tourism industry is leading the way in adaptation and mitigation. Through a combination of stewardship, best practice and policy the tourism industry is working in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to minimise and adapt to the ‘real sea change’.

The Marine Tourism Climate Change Action Strategy 2009-2012, a partnership between industry and the Authority outlines actions that can be taken to improve reef health and includes tools such as a carbon emissions calculator, climate change case studies, and climate change operator workshops. The Authority works with tourism operators to encourage ever improving standards for the protection and presentation of the Great Barrier Reef. Operators who are independently certified with Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Certification Program at advanced levels and who meet best practice standards are invited by the Authority to be recognised as high standard operators.

The tourism industry expects climate change impacts will have an effect on visitor satisfaction, itinerary planning, infrastructure, insurances and product marketing. It is becoming increasingly evident that contingency planning is needed, particularly where operations are highly location specific. The Marine Tourism Contingency Plan for the Great Barrier Reef supports contingency planning and facilitates fast and effective permit assessment processes for operations that require temporary site relocation following severe environmental incidents. The ability to adapt to challenges has long been a key strength of the tourism industry. Proactive climate adaptation strategies are not only resulting in benefits for the Reef but also result in marketing and operational benefits. While climate change is a global issue, local climate change actions by tourism operators are making a difference to the Reef and the economic viability of the industry.