Great Barrier Reef tour operators prepare to restart

Companies pledge to visit reef on alternate days.

Three Great Barrier Reef tour operators have banded together to protect each other’s long-term future as travel restrictions ease across Queensland, giving fresh hope for the tourism industry.

Cairns-based Passions of Paradise, Down Under Cruise and Dive, and Ocean Freedom have agreed to not compete against each other and will instead run snorkelling and diving tours to the outer Great Barrier Reef on alternate days from July 10.

Down Under Cruise and Dive Managing Director Peppi Iovannella said this would ensure the longevity of all three businesses and keep their crews employed.

“We want to be part of the recovery plan for the region’s tourism industry and our re-entry into the marketplace will help stimulate backyard tourism,” Mr Iovannella said.
“Locals will be itching to get out and explore the Great Barrier Reef and we will support them with a locals discount of 30%.”

Under the State Government’s latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions, Queenslanders are allowed to travel anywhere in the state and have overnight stays from noon, 1 June.

The announcement was welcomed by the tourism industry which sees it as a first step on its path to recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Passions of Paradise Managing Director Alan Wallish said the Federal Government’s JobKeeper support had been a lifeline for the three family-owned companies by allowing each to keep their workers employed and get their boats ready for travel to resume.
“Together our three companies employ more than 100 local staff and have a combined 100 years of experience running tours to the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Wallish said.

Ocean Freedom Managing Director Perry Jones said tours had not run for three months so the Great Barrier Reef would be teeming with marine life curious about visitors.
“Visiting the Great Barrier Reef in July and August is often the experience of a lifetime as this is when the humpback whales begin their migration north and we regularly see them on our way to and from our mooring sites,” Mr Jones said.
“Locals will enjoy smaller numbers on our boats and if they want an exclusive experience will get a good price on a private charter.”
Passions of Paradise, Down Under Cruise and Dive’s Evolution and Ocean Freedom each visit two outer Great Barrier Reef sites with snorkelling and lunch included.