Cooperative Research Centre for the Great
           Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
           Tourism Program School of Business James Cook University


             Profiling visitors who are residents of the
                      Great Barrier Reef region

                            Data Summary Report

              Based on data collected by researchers in
                     CRC Reef Project B2.1.1

Report prepared August 2002

Amy Hildebrandt

Tourism Program
James Cook University
Phone: (07) 4781 5132
Fax:     (07) 4781 4019
Email: tourism.research@jcu.edu.au
Background to the Project

This study was conducted as part of the research activities in CRC Reef Project B2.1.1:
Understanding Tourist Use of the GBRWHA. The major objectives of this project are to describe
and understand the nature of GBR tourism to assist in the development of more sustainable
tourist activities in this World Heritage Area.

What we did

Visitor surveys were handed out to passengers on reef operations in North and Far North
Queensland coastal regions. A total of 2215 passengers completed the survey (response rate of
75%). Surveys were distributed on weekdays and weekends between July and November during

The reef operations surveyed included a variety of sizes and types of boats, and lengths and
purposes of the trip. People were surveyed on large and small day trip boats, island trips,
overnight cruises, diving trips, and bareboat cruises. Locations and operations were chosen from
various places between Port Douglas and the Whitsunday region.

The surveys were collected in several different ways. On day trips, surveys were distributed by
research staff, completed by passengers and returned to the researcher during the return
journey. In a similar manner, tourism personnel assisted with data collection on overnight reef
trips. People visiting the reef on a bareboat cruise were asked by the bareboat operator to
complete a post-return survey on the completion of their trip. On most reef trips, surveys were
conducted in English only, with the exception of day trips going to a reef pontoon, on which
surveys translated for Japanese and Chinese visitors were available. The survey design was
consistent across all locations and operations, with only minor question differences in the
overnight and bareboat trip surveys.

What we did next

This report was prepared in response to a request for more specific information about the
Residents of the Great Barrier Reef region who go on reef trips. Great Barrier Reef residents
were defined as people living on the coast between Bundaberg and Far North Queensland

        1. Who are the residents of the Great Barrier Reef who go on a reef trip?

The sample consisted of 54% females and 46% males. Visitors’ ages ranged between 16 and 73
with the average age being 36. The 21 to 30 age group accounted for almost one third (32%) of
the sample (Figure 1).

                                                 >60        <21
                                       51-60     4%         9%

                                 41-50                                32%


Figure 1. Age of visitors

Almost three quarters (72%) of visitors travelled with family or friends (26% with just family, 26%
with just friends and 20% with family and friends) (Figure 2). Almost half (45%) of the visitors had
three to five adults in their travel party, while 65% had no children travelling with them (Table 1).

                             Other          4%

                  Family & Friends                                       20%

                            Friends                                                  26%

                            Family                                                   26%

                   Spouse/partner                                  16%

                             Alone                     9%

                                      0%   5%      10%       15%     20%       25%     30%
                                                  Percent of visitors

Figure 2. Type of Travel Party

Table 1. Total number of people and Children in Travel Party

                 No. in Travel                Adults                Children
                    Party                      (%)                    (%)
                       0                         0                     65
                       1                         9                      5
                       2                        29                     14
                      3-5                       45                     11
                     6-10                       10                      4
                      >10                        6                      2

        2. Travel Patterns and Planning Issues
Two-thirds (66%) of visitors stayed less than seven days away from home on this trip, while one
quarter stayed between 8 and 14 days (Figure 3). Fifty-eight percent of respondents stayed in
the region for less than 5 days (29% for 1-2 days, 29% for 3-4 days) (Figure 4). Twenty-four
percent of visitors had organised most of their days before they started the trip, with another 24%
made their decisions and plans from day to day (Table 2). Thirty-four percent of visitors planned
their trip between two and three weeks prior to their departure, while 26% planned this trip two
months in advance (Figure 5).

                                8-14 days

                                7 days
                                  9%                             <7 days

Figure 3. Number of nights away from home

                       2 weeks                                    26%

                      5-7 days                        16%

                      3-4 days                                       29%

                      1-2 days                                       29%

                               0%          10%          20%        30%        40%

Figure 4. Number of days in the region

Table 2. Approach to planning this trip

                          Planning Approach                       % of Visitors
           I chose an already organised package tour                   15
           I organised most of my days and the attractions,            24
           activities and places I would visit before I started
           the trip
           I had planned some of my days and the                        22
           attractions, activities and places I would visit
           before I started the trip
           I used information I obtained upon arrival to plan           15
           most of my days and the attractions, activities
           and places I would visit
           Most of my plans and decisions are made from                 24
           day to day

                    9-11 months                9%

                     6-8 months           6%

                     3-5 months           6%

                       2 months                                  26%

                        1 month                9%

                      2-3 weeks                                           34%

                         1 week                 11%

                                 0%        10%          20%       30%          40%

Figure 5. Total trip planning time

        3. Information Sources
Half of the respondents had knowledge of the Great Barrier Reef from a previous trip while
friends and family members were also a widely used information source for visitors (42%) (Table

Table 3. Sources of information about the Great Barrier Reef

                       Information Sources                     % of Visitors
         Been before                                                50
         Friends/family members                                     42
         Articles in newspapers/magazines                           32
         Brochures/pamphlets picked up within the                   28
         Books/library                                              20
         Tour operator/company                                      18
         Booking/information centres in the region                  17
         Other travellers                                           10
         Travel Agent                                               8
         Brochures/pamphlets picked up outside the                  8
         The internet                                               6
         Accommodation                                              4
         I had no information                                       1
         Automobile association                                     0
        NB. Multiple responses were allowed.

        4.   Factors influencing choice of Tour
The most important factors for visitors in choosing a Great Barrier Reef tour were opportunities to
snorkel (38% of visitors rating very important), and the price matched their budget (37%) (Table

Table 4. How important are these factors in choosing a Great Barrier Reef tour?

       Features important for choosing a Tour                % Rating Very             Mean
                                                               Important             (Average)
It offered opportunities to snorkel                               38                    3.7
The price matched my budget                                       37                    3.6
The departure day and time best fitted my schedule                36                    3.7
It advertised opportunities to see marine wildlife                32                    3.6
The size of the boat                                              29                    3.3
It offered opportunities to dive                                  27                    2.9
It was recommended by others                                      25                    3.1
Rating scale: 1=Not at all important, 5=Very important.

        5. Motivation for visiting the Great Barrier Reef
The most important reasons for visiting the Great Barrier Reef were to be in a natural place (65%
of visitors rating very important), and to experience the beauty of nature (64%) (Table 5).

Table 5. Reasons for this Great Barrier Reef visit

                    Motivations                           % Rating Very               Mean
                                                            Important               (Average)
To be in a natural place                                       65                      4.5
To experience the beauty of nature                             64                      4.5
To rest and relax                                              51                      4.1
To escape normal routine                                       50                      4.1
To experience an undeveloped environment                       49                      4.1
To experience something new and different                      48                      4.1
To have some excitement                                        43                      4.0
To learn more about nature                                     42                      3.9
To learn about a coral reef                                    38                      3.8
To develop skills like diving/snorkeling                       33                      3.3
To be physically active                                        32                      3.6
To be with others who enjoy things I enjoy                     29                      3.6
To be close to friends and family                              24                      2.9
To experience some solitude                                    19                      3.0
To meet new people                                             17                      2.7
To get some exercise                                           13                      2.5
Rating scale: 1=Not at all important, 5=Very important.

         6. Participation in activities
The most popular activities undertaken by visitors on their reef trip were snorkeling (63%) and
swimming (52%) (Table 6).

Table 6. Activities visitors did while on their trip

                                Activities                      % of Visitors
          Snorkelling                                                 63
          Swimming                                                    52
          Semi submersible tour                                       20
          Island-based activities                                     18
          Scuba diving – certified                                    18
          Glass bottom boat                                           15
          Fishing                                                     13
          Reef talk                                                   12
          Underwater observatory                                      10
          Scuba diving – introductory                                  6
          Jet skiing                                                   4
          Marine Biologist guided snorkel tour                         4
          Boom netting                                                 2
          Sailing                                                      2
          Helicopter scenic flight                                     1
         NB. Multiple responses were allowed.
         Note. Not all activities were available on each surveyed reef trip.

         7. Satisfaction
Seventy-eight percent of visitors gave an overall score of between 8 and 10 (on a rating scale
where 0=not at all satisfied and 10=very satisfied) with a mean score of 8.47 for their overall reef
experience. Sixty-eight percent of visitors said that they would definitely recommend a trip to the
Great Barrier Reef to others (Figure 6).
                                                       2% Don't Know



Figure 6. Recommend a trip to the Great Barrier Reef to others

The majority of visitors said that all of the factors in Table 7 were about right, however, 15% of
visitors felt that there were too many people on the reef, while 19% each said that there were not
enough wildlife encounters and information about the reef.

Table 7. Attitudes toward aspects of the reef experience

                                                              Percent of Sample
                Factors                       Too few/not     About     Too many/too        Did not
                                                enough        right        much             matter
Number of other people                             2            69           15               14
Number of other boats                              1            69           2                28
Built facilities                                  11            69           1                19
Number of activities available                     8            83           0                10
Wildlife encounters                               19            73           0                 8
Amount of information about the reef              19            74           1                 6

Three quarters of visitors said that the friendliness of staff was very good and 61% said that staff
knowledge was very good (Table 8).

Table 8. Satisfaction with features of the trip

                      Features                              % Rating Very             Mean
                                                               Good                 (Average)
Friendliness of staff                                            75                    4.7
Staff knowledge                                                  61                    4.5
Cleanliness of the environment                                   50                    4.2
The overall environment                                          49                    4.3
Water quality                                                    48                    4.2
The fish                                                         45                    4.0
Tour facilities (boat, pontoon etc)                              45                    4.1
Information about the reef                                       41                    3.9
Information about the tour                                       39                    4.0
Marine life other than fish or coral                             37                    3.7
The coral                                                        37                    3.8
Rating scale: 1=Very poor, 5=Very good.


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