Some stats and facts on tourism and marine sanctuaries…
Tourism is an important industry for the South West region of Western Australia. Marine ecotourism is a growth sector in the region, and the regions natural beauty, snorkeling, diving, fishing and clean beaches are a major attraction for both domestic and international tourists.
A Tourism Dependent Region
A recent report by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism found that the South West is one of seven tourism dependent regions in Australia. The tourism industry contributes $881m and attracts 1.6 million visitors to the region. Tourism accounts for 4.8% of economic output from the region, well above the Australian benchmark for economic importance of 3%.
The tourism industry supports 3,999 businesses, which is 18.1% of all businesses in the region. The economy of the South West is supported by mining, agriculture and tourism. The major attractions for the region and considered to be food, wine, beaches and nature.
(Economic Importance of Tourism in Australia’s Regions, RET, August 2011)
Many towns in the South West have a marine eco-tourism facility as a major attraction; such as the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury, the Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory in Busselton, and Whale World in Albany.
Marine Ecotourism is a Growth Industry in the Region
Between 1997 and 2005 the number of dolphin watching permits increased fivefold. The number of whale watching permits increased from 91 to 110. Whale watching is valued in excess of $45m.
(The Economics of Marine Protected Areas, Allen Consulting Group, November 2009)
SCUBA diving is also growing rapidly in the region with tens of thousands of new divers certified each year. Diving association PADI now estimates that there are 400,000 registered divers in Western Australia. Depletion of large fish on dive sites is considered a threat to the further growth of the industry and its competitiveness with other national and international destinations.
Eco-Tourists Spend Twice as Much
Research from the Sustainable Tourism CRC at Curtin University shows that international visitors that visit natural attractions such as marine parks spend twice as much, an average of $6000 per visit compared with $3000 for other visitors.