THE emotional connection people share with whales is what keeps people coming back to the Fraser Coast, a new study has shown.
University of Queensland Business School professor Dr Aaron Tkaczynski spent time in the region from August to October last year on three Hervey Bay whale-watching vessels.
He surveyed 1024 people to find out what they enjoyed about whale watching on the Fraser Coast.
Dr Tkaczynski said his study had shown visitors valued the close encounters Hervey Bay could offer.
"Their actual rating of the experience was very, very high; they found it very authentic," he said.
Survey results showed 38.4% of people whale watching came from Queensland, with the majority visiting from the south-east.
Fraser Coast Opportunities' tourism manager Tas Webber said the survey had shown the entity's marketing into that area was working.
He said FCO staff would assess the results and develop strategies with the whale fleet to grow the industry.
"It's about us knowing what the visitors want and making sure we can match the experience to what they're after," he said.
Mr Webber said the intimacy between whales and the people made the Fraser Coast an attractive location.
In 2015 about 50,000 people jumped on board a boat to see the whales.
Mr Webber said that was about 9% up on the previous season.
Hervey Bay Whale Watch owners Brian and Jill Perry saw a 20% increase in numbers in the 2015 season.
Ms Perry said although she did her own surveys, the UQ research would be a valuable tool for the whole whale fleet.
- Biggest audience is people aged between 25 and 34
- Most stay two to three nights in the region
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