IMAGINE swimming in open ocean as 16-metre, 36-tonne humpback giants rise out of the depths.

This is the proposal that has won favour with Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen.

Mr Christensen yesterday attended the Airlie Beach Tourism Summit, where a businessman touted the idea as a way to revive the lukewarm tourism industry. However, whale swimming wasn't one of the top priorities listed at the end of the summit.

About 250 attended, with an interpretative information and discovery centre voted as one of the top priorities to develop tourism in Airlie Beach.

Mr Christensen said Australian environmental regulations should be repealed to allow tourists to snorkel with humpback whales in the Whitsundays.

"We need to relax all these environmental regulations to improve the experience tourists can have in the Whitsundays."

Mr Christensen said Tonga was proof people could snorkel with whales without causing harm.

"There needs to be a protection area around (whales) but our competitors aren't restricted by these environmental regulations and his point is they're the same bloody whales going up the coast."

Whitsundays Marketing and Development Limited chief executive officer Danial Rochford heralded the event as a huge success.

"We now have some very clear directions that the community has voted on as their priorities and we look forward to starting work on delivering those.

"In particular there is a clear mandate to deliver events for the region, and a clear mandate for WMDL to lead more collaborative marketing efforts with the Airlie Beach tourism industry united under the one banner."

Darren Jew is a host and professional photographer working for Whaleswim Adventures in Tonga.

He said while whale swimming might be safe in the open water of the Pacific Ocean, it would be both environmentally and economically unsuitable for the Whitsundays.

"The Whitsundays are inshore islands so the water's not that clear," he said.

Do you think allowing tourists to swim with whales will increase tourism of the Whitsundays?

This poll ended on 20 May 2013.

Current Results





This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.


Top priorities from Tourism Summit:


Extreme Games; Food and wine event (Reef-themed); Festival of love

Products and experiences

Discovery Centre; Airlie Beach Main Street theming; Outdoor events facility

Access and infrastructure

Direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns; Flood-proof the roads between Proserpine Airport and Airlie Beach; Tourism information/Discovery Centre


'The hub' - getting the message out that Airlie Beach is the hub of the region and focusing on products and experiences already existing; Selling experiences; Brand review

Customer service

Discovery Centre (to be used as a training hub); Training; Signage and maps