Cape Town - A tourism representative is claiming that a scientist's studies on the Great Barrier Reef's decline is to blame for the dip in tourism to the world wonder.
First reported in Guardian Australia, Col McKenzie from the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) has asked the Australian federal government in writing to stop funding Professor Terry Hughes and his work on the reef, claiming that his popularised findings on its coral bleaching is keeping tourists away.
Hughes is the foremost expert on the Great Barrier Reef, and was the first to point out the massive bleaching event in 2016 that killed off one third of the Great Barrier Reef.
McKenzie told the news source that tourists are now convinced the 'reef is dead' and have stopped coming, especially reducing long-haul trips and damaging markets from the US and Europe. Although he agreed that the reef needs some help, he believes that Hughes' studies were 'exaggerated'.
“All driven off the back of the negative comments made by a researcher paid entirely by commonwealth funds. I think it is a misuse of commonwealth funds to make false or misleading comments to the media,” McKenzie told Gaurdian.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has fought back against his claims, saying the blame should rather be put on big polluters and those in power who protect them.
Other tourism operators have also come out against the AMPTO head, and disputes the notion that Hughes' studies are the reason for the slump.
“The idea that conservation and tourism could be at odds on this issue is crazy. It’s been implied that talking about the issues will have a negative impact on business – but we’ve actually found that the opposite is true,” says Executive Chair Darrell Wade from Intrepid Travel.
Studies have already found that the Great Barrier Reef will not be recovering any time soon, and another study reports that the bleaching could cost Australia a million tourists a year, making for a loss of over R10 billion and 10 000 jobs.
Besides bleaching, an outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, disease and a severe tropical cyclone have hammered the reef over the last two years, and the prospect for 2018 continues to look bleak.
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