Tourism Contribution and Values 

Tourism dollars make an important contribution towards reef protection and management and provides regular, daily access to sites within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). This enables visitors from around the world to witness the wonder and get involved in protecting the Reef and is facilitated by commercial enterprise, regulated through a permitting system. More than 70 permitted tourism operators host almost three million visits to the GBRMP each year and visitors pay a federal Environmental Management Charge (EMC) as part of their ticket price - $6.50 per person for a full-day tour, $3.25 per person for a half day tour. Marine tourism operators who take visitors above the high tide mark also contribute a Commercial Activity Permit (CAP) fee of $2.04 per person.

These funds assist the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), in developing management arrangements for sustainable use of the GBRMP. These include those that monitor, manage and improve the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef, such as ranger patrols, site planning, public moorings, reef protection markers and information signs and maps.

High Standard Operators

The High Standard Tourism Program was established in 2004 with the aim to encourage best practice marine tourism on the GBR. It is a voluntary program where GBRMPA recognises tourism operators who hold either Ecotourism or Advanced Ecotourism levels of Ecotourism Australia’s Eco Certification. These two levels have environmental standards as well as interpretation standards and standards for working in partnership with the protected area agencies and the community, including Traditional Owners.

Master Reef Guides

Master Reef Guides are recognised as the world’s leading reef guides, interpreters and story tellers sharing the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. These reef ambassadors can provide up to date information on the Reef, share stories of the magical World Heritage Area and explain what you can do to make a difference.The Master Reef Guide program is delivered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and Tourism and Events Queensland and is the first of its kind for the Reef.

For more information or to find out how you can become a Master Reef Guide, visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Master Reef Guides page

Tourism and Reef Science

The Great Barrier Reef tourism industry’s vitality and viability is inextricably linked to the Reef's long-term health. Tourism facilitates visitor engagement on initiatives which demonstrate recovery, regeneration and resilience.

A number of Reef tourism operators offer visitors the opportunity to observe or participate in reef science, including:

  • Quicksilver: Visitors can snorkel and observe a reef restoration research site at Agincourt Reef.
  • Passions of Paradise: Visitors can monitor and record the health of the reed of different coral and marine species and identify threats.
  • Fitzroy Island: The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre allow visitors to learn about the journey to recovery that injured or sick turtles undergo whilst at this Centre, prior to their release back into the ocean.
  • Lizard Island: Tours to the Research Station are conducted twice a week and available for all Lizard Island guests.
  • Orpeheus Island: Located within Pioneer Bay is the Orpheus Island Research Station, a marine research facility operated by James Cook University. Visitors can join an educational eco-tour and explore the Orpheus Island Research Station research facilities.
  • Heron Island Resort: Visitors can tour the the Heron Island Research Station and learn about how the station operates, including research conducted. Visitors are also able to partake in a guided tour of the island.
  • Lady Elliot Island Resort: Visitors are able to partake in REEFSearch and upload their findings on the REEFSearch Hub. Visitors can also participate in a dedicated Climate Change Trail and Tour of the island. 
  • Reefteach Cairns: Visitors are able to learn what to look for, where to find it and how to discover the Great Barrier Reef. 

Tours of Great Barrier Reef Island research stations can be found here.