HEAVENLY HEAVEN: Competitors in the Heron Island Great Barrier Reef Ocean Swim.
HEAVENLY HEAVEN: Competitors in the Heron Island Great Barrier Reef Ocean Swim. Photopia Studio

European tourists lapping up SGBR in record numbers

CENTRAL Queensland tourism leaders have made a splash with European tourists, attracting record numbers to the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Celebrating Tourism Research Australia's report that showed a 19-per cent increase in European and United Kingdom visitors to the Southern Great Barrier Reef last year, Mary Carroll said the region was "truly punching above its weight".

With hopes to increase on the record-breaking year in 2018, the Capricorn Enterprise chief executive officer said the results reflected a strong targeted campaign at western markets.

After working on building the Southern Great Barrier Reef brand, Ms Carroll said they were thrilled with the results.

"We have what the big western markets want, we're clean, green, have lots of open space and there's a great diversity of experiences within the Southern Great Barrier Reef," she said.

Ms Carroll said from the start, the SGBR brand aimed to increase international visitors.

Gladstone Area Promotion Development Limited chief executive Darryl Branthwaite expects the figures to increase this year, with the re-opening of the luxurious Wilson Island.

Heron Island Resort's new managers Aldesta Hotel Group are renovating the "glamping tents" on the small, secluded island with plans to open for visitors within three months.

"We have new product coming online, including Wilson island which will be a luxury experience... we're going to be the envy of the whole Great Barrier Reef," Mr Branthwaite said.

"The relationship (within the SGBR brand) we have is just amazing, there's a lot of trust and collaboration.

"For our own individual regions we're quite small on the world scale, but as the SGBR destination, we're a force to be reckoned with."

The figures, released this week, showed visitors from Europe and the United Kingdom accounted for 95,000 international visitors to the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Of those, 25,000 were from Germany. International visitors increased by 6.1 per cent last year to 151,000 within the SGBR.