Tourism to lose $1 billion if reef bleaching continues

THE tourism industry stands to lose $1 billion a year if severe coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef continues, new research has found.

Released yesterday, the Australia Institute report showed tourism regions around the reef risked losing more than one million visitors a year.

The research, based on surveys of Chinese, UK, American and domestic tourists, indicated coral bleaching was also putting 10,000 tourism jobs in regional Queensland at risk.

Based on the polling of international tourists, almost 175,000 people each year from those countries were more likely to visit a country other than Australia if bleaching of the reef persisted.

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said this was the first time anyone had gone to Australia's key tourism markets and asked them what they might do if we were not able to better protect the reef.

The Chinese market was particularly sensitive, with 55% more likely to visit another country, he said

"Chinese tourists are attracted by Australia's relatively clean environment, so they respond strongly to changes in that perception," Mr Oquist said.

He said this year's severe coral bleaching would have been "nearly impossible" but for climate change.

"The tourism areas that escaped the worst this year will not be so lucky again," he said.