One shell of a tourist hook
MON Repos is on track for a cracking season, with visitor numbers expected to topple last year's record breaking total.
During the 2015/16 season the turtle rookery welcomed 30,000 visitors for the first time and with still about a month to go of the 2016/2017 season, numbers are expected to reach 23,000 overnight and again more than 30,000 by season's end.
The figures show that compared to the same time last year, visitor numbers are already up by about 200.
Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism general manager Katherine Mergard said it was exciting to see visitors, from near and far, continuing to be enticed by the natural drawcard right here on our doorstep.
"It's remarkable to see the strong visitor numbers for the Mon Repos Turtle Experience this season," she said.
"Visitors are predominantly domestic, coming from within 400km drive radius, with an increase of international this year."
Mon Repos Visitor numbers have been consistently above 25,000 since the 2011/2012 season, with the exception of 2012/13, when ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald caused erosion damage to the beach and forced the early closure of the season.
Ms Mergard said the growth in numbers was evidence that a targeted tourism campaign highlighting the area's Southern Great Barrier Reef status was paying dividends.
"This shows us that our destination marketing is working and awareness is increasing that Bundaberg, on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, is recognised as the place visitors go to immerse themselves in a turtle experience," she said.
"This year we have seen a marked increase in pre-booking online for the turtle experience, with bookings rolling in from the day the availability was opened in September 2016.
"We really went out strong into the market in October and early November, to drive visitation before the school holidays - as this is when we traditionally have lower numbers.
"This resulted in increased November visitors, setting us in a good position for the rest of the season."
Ms Mergard said bookings remained strong for the rest of the season, with those who are keen to see the turtle hatchlings make their way down the beach urged to book mid-week.
"At this stage, most Saturday nights are booked out for the rest of the season, so we are really trying now to encourage bookings for the week days," she said.
The success of Mon Repos has a ripple effect on the region, with every dollar tourism earnt adding an additional 87 cents to other parts of the economy.
Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson said tourism delivered about $620 million annually to the economy in the Bundaberg region and supported 6,200 direct and indirect jobs.
"That is one in seven jobs in the region," she said.