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.”
SOURCE: Whitsunday Times