Environmental interpretation in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: An assessment of programme effectiveness

Elizabeth M P Madin*, D. Mark Fenton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


This study sought to determine how visitor environmental interpretation programmes in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park could be assessed to determine their effectiveness in educating visitors about the reef environment and conservation issues. A self-administered visitor questionnaire was designed to identify changes in visitor knowledge and understanding of the reef's basic ecology, human impacts, health and tourism. The study used an independent sample design in which visitors aboard a large reef-trip vessel were surveyed over one week before exposure to the operation's interpretive programme. A second set of visitors was then surveyed following completion of the interpretive programme. The survey identified significant changes in visitors' self-reported knowledge of the reef environment as a result of the trip. Additionally, visitors' self-reported knowledge and understanding of basic reef ecology and human impacts on the reef environment differed significantly in relation to the number of interpretive activities in which they participated. These findings suggest that (1) reef-based visitor interpretation programmes can effectively change visitor understanding of key reef topics and issues, and (2) methods of evaluating reef-based interpretive programmes can be undertaken through self-administered questionnaires.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-137
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Coral reef
  • Environmental interpretation
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Marine park
  • Nature-based tourism
  • Performance indicator


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