The growth of more remote tourist destinations - case study of Antarctica.

external image antarctica.jpg

What it is about Antarctica that is attractive to tourists, what makes it exotic?
Antarctica is a unique area with many animals and a landscape that is different to other places in the world.
The main areas of interest include areas with an abundance of wildlife and scenic landscapes. There is some enthusiasm for going on the routes of past explorers such as Shackleton. There is a museum at Port Lockroy which is a former British base and it shows the history of life in Antarctica. In Antarctic tourism, there are the "Big Five" things that most tours want to see. They are: whales, seals, penguins, albatross and the ice.
A trip to Antarctica is often on "things to do before you die" lists and as a result many older people travel to Antarctica as tourists. The increasing number of people of the "Saga Generation" (wealthy retired people who go on adventurous trips) has lead to a popularity increase of Antarctic trips.
What makes Antarctica exotic is that it really is isolated from the industrial world and the wildlife is varied and the landscapes are “awe-inspiring” to onlookers.

What is the environmental worth of Antarctica?

According to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, Antarctica has three intrinsic values, all of which are related to the environment (see Reference 1 for information):

  1. Wildlife: Due to its geographical location, the sparse wildlife that inhabits Antarctica remains largely untouched by human influence and by the pollution brought on by humans (see Reference 2).
  2. Aesthetic Value: As the largest pristine area on Earth, there is much to behold in Antarctica, such as the many icebergs and glaciers around the coasts and natural events such as the aurora borealis (see Reference 3).
  3. Value as an area for scientific research: Researchers go to Antarctica to research the Earth and its history since the land itself is in relatively good condition (i.e. it has not sustained any natural damage from human activity such as soil erosion or increases in temperature brought on by humans). In addition, the isolated continent is an ideal spot for baseline research on the global environment.

It is important to point out that ice glaciers in Antarctica are suffering from the hole in the ozone layer and in order to prevent flooding and environmental disaster, it is important to keep the ozone layer from being depleted or perforated by greenhouse gases (see Reference 4).

The Protocol on Environmental Protection established by nations bound by the Antarctic Treaty with the help of Greenpeace has prevented mining to occur in Antarctica, which preserves the environmental worth of the continent by preventing any potentially polluting actions (e.g. carbon emissions from fuel for oil platforms and mining machines) (see Reference 5).

  1. "The Natural Environment of Antarctica." The Natural Environment of Antarctica. Ministry of the Environment, Goverment of Japan. 14 Mar. 2009 [[]]
  2. "Animals of Antarctica." Animals of Antarctica. Ministry of the Environment, Goverment of Japan. 15 Mar. 2009 [[]].
  3. "Landscape of Antarctica." Landscape of Antarctica. Ministry of the Environment, Goverment of Japan. 15 Mar. 2009 [[]].
  4. "CIA - The World Factbook -- Antarctica." Welcome to the CIA Web Site: Central Intelligence Agency. 5 Mar. 2009. Central Intelligence Agency. 14 Mar. 2009 [[]].
  5. "Greenpeace in Antarctica." Greenpeace Antarctica Tour 1997. Greenpeace. 14 Mar. 2009 [[]].

What is the economic and political worth of Antarctica?

There is generally very little economic activity that occurs in Antarctica. Tourism is supposedly one of the larger industries on the continent, however there appears to only have been 30,000 tourists to Antarctica since 1969. Even so, the recent expansion to about 99 tour companies in Antarctica have shown the world that there is a definite tourism market available in Antarctica. The income that is made from tourism in Antarctica is also known to seasonal, with many of the tourists coming during the northern hemisphere summer months, while many tourists do come during the southern hemisphere summer months when it will be warmer. Even so, the majority of economic activity that takes place in Antarctica is mostly scientific and is mostly organized by governmental organizations, such as the USAP (U.S. Antarctic Program). This industry itself can have anywhere from 1,000 employees in Antarctica to 4,000 depending on the time of year. They are made up of a number of nationalities from participating nations. Whaling is also present in Antarctica. It has been most notably been conducted by many Japanese vessels in the Antarctic seas. This particular industry is widely considered illegal in many countries, however the seas located around Antarctica are viewed as neutral waters so the whalers are therefore not in violation of any crimes. One such example occurred in the waters near Antarctica on March 7th, 2008 when there was a confrontation between Japanese whalers and anti-whaling activists.

Politically, there have currently been many claims made for Antarctica. However, many of the nations who have made these claims have their own territories intersecting with those of other nations, especially concerning the claims of Argentina and Chile. There has currently been no physical friction between the nations claiming land in Antarctica.
Countries who currently have territories in Antarctica consist of:
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Norway
  • Australia
  • Chile
  • Argentina
Some other countries who wish to claim territory consist of:
  • Brazil (No official claim has been made)
  • Peru
  • South Africa
  • Russia
  • United States
The actual political value of Antarctica is only really the gain of landmass, small amounts of Antarctic research sites, and small settlements of people. Beyond that, there is little political value that Antarctica contains. Concerning Antarctica's strategical value; the Antarctica Treaty was signed on the 23rd of June, 1962. This treaty does the following:
  • Demilitarizes Antarctica
  • Makes Antarctica a nuclear free zone and free of radioactive waste
  • Makes sure that Antarctica is only used for peaceful purposes
  • Promotes international scientific cooperation in Antarctica
  • Sets aside all disputes over territory sovereignity
The following nations are signatories to the Antarctica Treaty (OS - Original Signatory):
  • Argentina OS
  • Australia OS
  • Austria
  • Belgium OS
  • Belarus
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile OS
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Cuba
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France OS
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan OS
  • Korea DPR
  • Korea Republic
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand OS
  • Norway OS
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Russia OS
  • Slovakia
  • South Africa OS
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom OS
  • United States OS
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

What is the status of Antarctica, who has claims to it, how did they make and agree on these claims?

Antarctic Treaty:
  • Signed on December 1st, 1959
    • Entered into force 23 June 1961
  • Establishes legal framework for management of Antarctica
  • 46 treaty member nations
    • 28 consultative & 18 non-consultative
    • 7 consultative members claim parts of Antarctica as national territory
    • US & Russia reserve the right to make claims
    • US does not recognize claims of others
  • Antarctica as a scientific preserve
    • Established freedom of scientific investigation
    • Banned military activity on that continent
    • First arms control agreement established during the Cold War

  • Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM)
    • Yearly
    • International forum for administration & management of region
  • Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP)
    • Yearly
  • Occurs around same time as ACTM
  • 28 parties have the right to participate in decision-making at these meetings
    • Other 18 are still allowed to attend
    • Decisions are carried out by member nations with respect to their own national laws & operations

Past 4 ATCM & CEP meetings: their dates; & their locations

ATCM XXXII - CEP XII 06 Apr 2009 - 17 Apr 2009 Baltimore, United States
ATCM XXXI - CEP XI 02 Jun 2008 - 13 Jun 2008 Kyiv, Ukraine
ATCM XXX - CEP X 30 Apr 2007 - 11 May 2007 New Delhi, India
ATCM XXIX - CEP IX 12 Jun 2006 - 23 Jun 2006 Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Trace the growth of the tourism industry in the Antarctic
The tourist industry in the Antarctic began in the late 1950’s, with over 500 passengers traveled from Chile and Argentina to the South Shetland Islands. Lars-Eric began the “expedition cruising” where he tried to educate tourists about the sensitive environment of Antarctica. In 1969 he built the first expedition ship which was designed to carry tourists to the Antarctic. Since 1970 there have been regular tourist expeditions every year. This model of cruising to view the Antarctic is still followed today by many ship based tourist companies in the Antarctic.
There are currently 58 vessels registered by the IAATO which travel to Antarctica, many range from 6-500 passengers and occasionally larger vessels carrying up to 3,000 passengers cruse by without landing. Yacht travel has also become more popular in recent years. The isolated location and natural beauty of Antarctica has drawn more and more passengers there each year. In 1980 less then 2,000 tourists came to Antarctica, in the last 30 years there are 15 times that number of tourists.
Flights over the Antarctic began in the 1950’s and were made commercial in the 1960’s. Many landed at McMurdo Sound and the south pole. Tourists began to visit Antarctica by air in the 1950s when flights over the Antarctic Peninsula were made. In the 1960s commercial flights landed at McMurdo Sound and the South Pole. Now one can get flights to the northern part of Antarctica as well, and there are businesses which arrange flights for climbing expeditions and trips to the South Pole.
The International Associating of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) was formed in 1991 to act as a single organization to promote environmentally friendly tourism to Antarctica in the private sector.
Graph of trends in Antarctic Tourism from 1992-2007 (include ship and land-based passengers, from 1997 onwards includes some Yacht activity, march 14th, 2008.
tourists_in_antartica.jpg (International Associating of Antarctica Tour Operations: Tourism Statistics)

7. what does a typical tour to Antarctica look like - where do they leave from, how do they get there? how long do they stay, what do they do?

- Cruise ships / expedition ships (“the only realistic approach”)
- Zodiacs and kayaks for daytime expeditions
- Certain luxury tours offer plane transportation
- Tours are relatively small (around 80 guests per ship)

- Ships depart from the southern tip of South America, from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
- Packages generally include flights to Ushuaia as well as accommodation until departing on the cruise
- Tours spend one full day preparing for departure, known as “embarkation day”
- Ships generally travel directly through Drake Passage (for approximately 2 days) to reach Antarctica
- Tours may stop to explore the Falkland Islands or Sub-antarctic Islands before reaching the mainland

Common Travel Season:
- Tours are generally offered from December through February (with occasional tours in March)

Dates and Costs:
- Tours range from US $3,000 to $40,000 (depending on the length and accommodation) with an average of approximately US $7,000
- Tours are generally 11-20 days in length (with exceptions of certain 30 day expeditions)

Destinations and expeditions:
- The most popular destination is the Antarctic Peninsula which contains popular wildlife, mountains and research stations.
- Other destinations include:
- Trans Antarctic Mountains
- Lemaire Channel (A narrow waterway along the Peninsula surrounded by sheer cliffs.)
- Paradise Harbor (Located on the Antarctic Peninsula and visited by zodiac, this is a very popular site with beautiful icebergs and wildlife.)
- The South Shetland Islands (about 120km North of the Antarctic Peninsula)
- Deception Island (Located among the South Shetland Islands, this site is a once-erupted volcano now inhibited by Chinstrap Penguins.)
- Tourists generally board on the ship unless undertaking a land expedition or staying in Luxury camps

- Expeditions through the mountains
- Wildlife tours
- Visits to science bases
- Expeditions through iceberg sculptures, glaciers and with marine mammals (mostly penguins and seals)
- Whale watching (for Humpback, Minke, and Orca whales )
- Sea diving

8. what type of tourism takes place in Antarctica and what type of tourists does it attract? (has this changed over time?)

Antarctica offers wildlife/wilderness tourism – where visitors go to appreciate the environment and to experience virtually uninhabited areas with unique ecosystems. Tourists to Antarctica generally take commercial ship cruises along the coast of the continent. Dive trips are also available for tourists interested in the marine life. The most commonly visited region by tourists is the Antarctic Peninsula because it has milder weather (it is the area most affected by climate change), it has abundant wildlife, and is the location of many scientific bases.

The majority of tourists are from the USA, the UK, and Germany. Although many feel that tourists have a largely negative impact on the environment of Antarctica, it appears in many cases that tourists to the continent are well informed and take a big interest in the preservation of the environment. Many tourists have been known to become strong advocates for the protection of Antarctica when they return home.

Since all tours in Antarctica are educational, it is assumed that tourists to Antarctica are people who wish to learn more about its environment. Staff members of most tour ships are experts in particular aspects of the ecosystem and give lectures to the passengers. Tours have become more commercially-run over time and perhaps slightly less educational and more superficial, but it seems that the focus of these tours is still to educate tourists about the environment. Tourists to Antarctica may also have specific interests in the type of wildlife (emperor penguins, whales, etc) or the scientific research being done at numerous bases, although visits to these bases are limited.


9. what is the impact of tourism - transport, tours, waste

Impact of Tourism in Antarctica

  • As tourism becomes increasingly popular in the Antarctic, ships are growing in size to hold a larger capacity. These larger ships increase the risk of accidents. In the past 2 years, 6 vessels have gone aground or drifted into the Antarctic putting the visitors in danger as well as the land.
  • Also, the grounding of these ships can cause an oil spill which occurred with the tourist and supply ship Bahai Paraiso.
  • Regulations have been increasingly enforced after tourists impacts were noticed including: disturbed wildlife (penguins), litter, slow growing moss beds and stolen historic items or geological souvenirs.
  • The presences of tourists can disrupt research activity and put demands on staff who are not responsible for tourists.
  • The increase of tourism in the Antarctic creates the need for more planes and boats to reach the land. These planes and boats in turn create environmental risks, mainly pollution.
  • More abstractly, as more tourists visit Antarctica the reputation of the continent as being pristine and exotic slowly diminishes because it becomes accessible and effected by human activity.

10. is there any unified plan for managing tourism to Antarctica? organisations concerned about it?

  • In general tours are managed by private companies and are available to people all over the world
  • Increasing numbers of tourists over recent years has led the Antarctic Treaty (a treaty signed by 46 nations) countries to establish guidelines and regulations
  • The Antarctic Treaty has been signed by 46 nations, including the US and UK, and regulates international relations with respect to Antarctica
    • It has set Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation, and banned military activity on the continen
  • The section of the treaty called “Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic” makes recommendations on tourism and non-governmental activities
    • Concerns protection of Antarctic wildlife and protected areas
    • Concerns respecting scientific research,
    • Concerns understanding of personal safety, and impact on the environment
  • Treaty also puts restrictions on organizers of tourist and private ventures
    • Requires them to notify their national authority of any intended trips
    • Ensures their understanding of potential environmental impacts, the ability to cope with environmental emergencies such as oil spills, self-sufficiency, the proper disposal of wastes and respect for the Antarctic environment and research activities
  • International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators has been organized by tourism operators in Antarctica to promote safety and environmental responsibility amongst cruise operators
  • Certain governments have also set regulations to minimize effects of tourists, for example:
    • Chile requires all captains of ships that go to Antarctica to attend a month-long school in Antarctic navigation
    • New Zealand sends a government representative on all ships visiting the Ross Dependency to supervise visits to the historic huts and Scott Base and to observe how well the provisions of the treaty and protocol are adhered to


The Terra Nova and a berg at ice-foot. January 16, 1911