Last updated: 01:30 PM ET, Mon September 12 2016

Is Tourism Saving the Great Barrier Reef?

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | September 12, 2016

Is Tourism Saving the Great Barrier Reef?

Photo courtesy Thinkstock. 

It seems counterintuitive to think that a boom in tourism — particularly in the number of hotels — along the Great Barrier Reef would be a good thing (what with all the human invasion in such a delicate ecosystem) but as Conde Nast’s Amelia Lester discovers, it may just be saving the region. 

“Travelers bring in around $2.9 billion for the country’s northeastern economy. In a recent survey of scientists and conservationists on threats to the reef, tourism didn’t even rank in the top five,” Lester points out. 

Tourism along the Great Barrier Reef is heavily regulated. Visitors even pay a nominal environmental management fee when they visit. 

Lester points out that, while hotel development is growing, so too is the attention to environmental impact. 

“These hotels have, for the most part, become ever more luxurious as well as increasingly ecologically attuned. And perhaps their most important role is to allow visitors to see the startling evidence of our warming planet for themselves,” says Lester. 

She experiences this firsthand at Lizard Island. 

“Lizard Island is a consummate exercise in discreet, environmentally conscious luxury,” Lester observes. 

After her visit, Lester concludes that tourism is now what is protecting the reef, rather than the opposite. 

READ MORE: Is the Great Barrier Reef Experiencing a Last-Chance Tourism Boom?  

“Tourism used to be part of the problem, back in the days when tramping over the coral was permitted, and the bottoms of boats scraped the shallow seabed. These days, a trip to the reef is an educational experience, a stark reminder of what’s at stake for our rapidly warming planet,” she notes. 

To find out more about where to stay, what to do and how to get to the Great Barrier Reef — and for more on what to expect when you visit — read on here.

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