IS OUR REEF DY­ING?

Co­ral bleach­ing ru­mours could be ig­nit­ing tourism boom in the Whit­sun­days re­gion

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Inge Hansen Inge.Hansen@whit­sun­day­times.com.au

WORLD­WIDE ru­mours of the Great Bar­rier Reef dy­ing could be fu­elling a tourism boom for the Whit­sun­day re­gion.

In re­cent weeks, mul­ti­ple news out­lets from across the globe have re­leased ar­ti­cles that state more peo­ple are vis­it­ing the reef in a bid to see the nat­u­ral won­der be­fore it dies.

This came at the same time as the re­lease of vis­i­tor num­ber sta­tis­tics from Tourism Re­search Aus­tralia, which re­vealed the num­ber of do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors had in­creased.

For the year end­ing June 2016, the Whit­sun­days’ do­mes­tic vis­i­tor num­bers had in­creased by 30.6% to a to­tal of 508,000 vis­i­tors while in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors in­creased to 222,000, up by 6%.

Hol­i­day vis­i­tors re­main the Whit­sun­days’ largest base, mak­ing up 334,000 of vis­i­tors to the re­gion, which is a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease of 24.6% since the last re­port­ing pe­riod.

CEO of Tourism Whit­sun­days Craig Turner said the idea that tourists were vis­it­ing purely be­cause they be­lieved the reef was dy­ing was “rub­bish”.

He said these fig­ures proved the di­ver­sity and qual­ity of tourism prod­ucts on of­fer in the Whit­sun­days re­gion.

“Peo­ple are com­ing to the Whit­sun­days be­cause it’s a fan­tas­tic des­ti­na­tion with so much to see and do,” he said.

“There’s been re­ports around the health of the reef say­ing it’s in good shape.

“Yes there are some ar­eas with co­ral bleach­ing but it’s an over­state­ment that the reef is dy­ing – it’s an alarmist ap­proach.”

How­ever, Cana­dian vis­i­tor Corey Tonge said the threat of the reef dy­ing was what pulled him to Aus­tralia and more specif­i­cally to our re­gion.

Mr Tonge, 24, ar­rived in Aus­tralia on July 25 this year with the in­tent to see the Great Bar­rier Reef.

“I know hu­mans are killing it, hence why I am here right now,” he said.

“Over­seas I hear about it all the time that global warm­ing is killing the reef and that’s why I truly wanted to visit it be­fore it will for­ever be lost due to hu­mans.”

While on his ad­ven­tures here in the Whit­sun­days, Mr Tonge said he spoke with other trav­ellers who were un­der the same be­lief.

“Af­ter speak­ing with many crew mates and other trav­ellers we have all seen a lot of the bleach­ing that is go­ing on,” he said.

“Nor­mally it bounces back and comes back to life, but it has not been the case at all af­ter what I’ve seen.”

Mr Turner said it wasn’t just in the Whit­sun­days where tourism num­bers were in­creas­ing, but in other ar­eas of Aus­tralia as well.

“The whole of Aus­tralia has seen growth in vis­i­ta­tion,” he said.

“They’re say­ing there’s 100 mil­lion out­bound vis­i­tors ex­pected to leave China and come here for a hol­i­day.”

PHOTO: COREY TONGE

MUST VISIT: Corey Tonge at White­haven Beach while in the Whit­sun­days.

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