Whale industry injects $12-20m into economy, not $60-80m

NEW research has shown Hervey Bay's whale watching industry is worth only a fraction of what it has previously been estimated to inject into the Fraser Coast economy.

An investigation by Tourism Queensland showed the industry injects anywhere between $12-20 million into the Fraser Coast economy.

The figure falls far short of the $60-$80 million it was previously estimated, by the local industry, to be injecting each year.

Fraser Coast Regional Council made a request in late 2013 to TQ to gauge the true value of the industry.

The report, compiled earlier this month, showed whale-watching visitors made up less than 4% of the total number of tourists visiting the Fraser Coast.

It called for marketing of the region to capture a wider component of the Fraser Coast, rather than focusing only on whale watching and Fraser Island.

"For too long the responsibility of promoting the region has been carried by the whale-watching industry and a number of operators on Fraser Island," the report said.

Fraser Coast Regional Council, Fraser Coast Opportunities and Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce have all relied on the $80 million estimate when supporting the industry in the past.

The reduced estimate should not come as a surprise however, with at least two other reports previously suggesting the industry only brings in about $12.9 million in direct and indirect spending.

In 2011, a report for the International Fund for Animal Welfare found each whale that passed through Hervey Bay waters was worth about $97,000 to the city's economy.

Another report compiled for the Federal Government by Syneca Consulting in 2011 estimated Hervey Bay would lose $7-12.6 million each year without the whale-watching industry.

Blue Dolphin Tours owner Peter Lynch said figures showed the industry had only become smaller in the past 15 years.

He said there were once 16 whale-watching operators in the area, compared to seven now.

Visitor numbers had also dropped from 85,000 people in 1999 to under 50,000 in 2013.

"That's a substantial loss of income for all concerned," he said.

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