Tourists Visiting The Great Barrier Reef Left Feeling Sad And Angry

Tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef are increasingly experiencing increased feelings of sadness and anger.

A new study, led by CSIRO researchers, looked at the way international tourists think and feel about the Great Barrier Reef after visiting it.

The researchers surveyed over 4,600 tourists that visited the reef in either 2013 or 2017.

Firstly, the scientists asked tourists to use emotional words to describe their trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

File photo shows the Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia in December 2017. (Kyodo)

They found that over this four-year interval there was an increase in the number of negative words that respondents used to describe their experience and feelings toward the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef experienced an unprecedented coral bleaching event in 2016 as a result of human-made climate change that resulted in the bleaching of 93 percent of the northern sections of the reef.

Following this bleaching event and increased media coverage of the area, the words 'fragile', 'disappointing', 'pollution', 'ruined', 'destruction' and 'damage came up far more frequently in 2017 than they did in 2013.

However, when the researchers surveyed average people who had not even visited the reef, these words were actually coming up a lot anyway, suggesting that these emotions were based on a broader understanding of what is happening to the area.

Source: Getty images.

The researchers described the increase in negative feelings as 'ecological grief' and stated in the paper that this was seen among local residents who felt particularly emotional attachment to the reef during the 2016 bleaching events.

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The surveys also showed a decline in overall perception of the beauty of the reef -- while the scores were still high in 2017 for how satisfied tourists were with the beauty of the reef, they were significantly lower than 2013 scores.

The perceived threats to the reef also changed over the four-year period -- somewhat ironically, tourists perceived their own activities as the most dominant threat to ecologically-sensitive sites in 2013.

in 2013 only 40 percent of respondents identified that climate change was an immediate threat but this number leapt to 51 percent in 2017, making it the most dominant factor.

File photo taken in October 2016 shows coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a World Heritage Site. (Kyodo)

Despite increasing awareness that the reef was in trouble and the feeling that it must be protected, the authors also showed that tourists had a declining feeling of personal responsibility for the reef and tended to feel that governments and corporations are the only ones with the capacity to alter its future.