Following a nightmare start to the year with global reports of a widespread coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, tourism operators in the Whitsundays are breathing a sigh of relief as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) clears the region of any lasting damage, and international visitors flock to the area.
The pristine azure waters of the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays has always been somewhat of a secret, playing distant cousin to the more heavily marketed Cairns area, but the secret is starting to leak out.
With virtually no damage to the reef in the Whitsundays from the coral bleaching event further north, both the physical and business environment in the area are in good health.
Major marine tour and transport operator in the region, Cruise Whitsundays, believes the region’s resurgence in international visitors has been driven by the spectacular natural beauty of the area.
“We boast being in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, and home to one of the world’s top ranked beaches, Whitehaven Beach,” Chief Executive Officer Nick Hortle said.
“As the major marine tourism operator in the region, Cruise Whitsundays is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment that we operate in and as a result, those iconic landscapes remain in pristine condition, something international visitors are flocking to experience,” he said.
“Being green is not just good for our business – we’ve actually saved money by implementing more sustainable practices like a silicone based hull coating (rather than traditional anti-foul), UV treatment of fuel, injector maintenance and technology – but it’s essential in a world where a healthy environment matters more and more,”
“Here in the Whitsundays, the reef has never been in better condition – coral cover actually increased by 90% in the central and southern Great Barrier Reef between 2012 and 2015,”
“Cruise Whitsundays has been applauded by GBRMPA this year as the poster child for the industry in contributing to its Eye on the Reef program – caring for the environment is something we take very seriously, and we know our visitors do too, particularly international visitors.”
Tourism Whitsundays Chief Executive Officer Craig Turner reports the region has finally recovered International visitor numbers since they plummeted in 2008 thanks to the GFC and a high Australian dollar.
“The latest figures released by Tourism Research Australia show that International visitors now make up 39% of the total holiday visitors to the Whitsundays,” Mr Turner said.
“Visitors from the UK and Europe still dominate our visitor mix, but big growth from China has also fuelled the growth in international visitors to the Whitsundays,” he said.
With so many happy international visitors flocking to Australia’s aquatic playground, where does that leave the average Aussie family wanting to take the kids to see Nemo at the reef, or just relax in the tropics for the upcoming school holidays?
“There’s always plenty of great deals available in the Whitsundays for savvy families who are willing to keep their eye out,” Mr Turner said.
“While school holidays is always going to be a time of high demand, there’s many ways families can save – book well in advance for a good deal; seek out self contained accommodation in Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast and do day trips to the islands, beaches and reef; or travel in shoulder periods just before/after peak times,” he said.
“Australians are so lucky to have so many world class landscapes right on our doorstep and the Whitsundays is certainly one of the jewels in the crown, so while we are enjoying the resurgence of international visitors, we also still urge Australians to come and see what all the fuss is about close to home – we are a safe, pristine destination with all the attractions of an international destination, a much shorter flight away.”