TheInternational Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) closed its annual meeting in Cape Town recently with multiple new measures in support of its mission for safe, environmentally responsible Antarctic travel.
IAATO has been carefully monitoring, analysing and reporting Antarctic tourism trends since 1991 as part of its commitment to ‘leave only footprints’ through the effective self-management of guest activities.
Each year at IAATO’s annual meeting, members discuss safety, environmental protection and self-regulation. Decision-making is supported byrecommendations developed by the organisation’s committees and working groups throughout the year.
The meetings conclude annually with the voting in of new policies on best practice, which support the association’s mission. For 2019, the aim was to support the effective management of the growing number of visitors to the white continent. Some 56,168 people travelled with IAATO members in 2018/2019, via both deep field and cruise expeditions, including 10,889 visitors who travelled on cruise-only vessels and did not set foot on the continent.
The actions agreed include a unanimous vote to impose mandatory measures to prevent whale strikes in cetacean-rich Antarctic waters, more stringent restrictions on the commercial use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), robust adjustments to visitor guidelines for activities on the Antarctic peninsula and approval toexpand research into the health of penguin populations at visitor sites.
IAATO and its counterpart in the northern hemisphere, the Association for Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, introduced guidelines that will arm visitors to the Polar regions with responsible solutions for reducing their waste and plastic footprint.
Mark van der Hulst, incoming chair of the IAATO Executive Committee, said: “Antarctica receives relatively few visitors compared to other destinations, but its unique qualities require rigorous safeguards. IAATO’s success in responsibly managing its activities relies on the willingness of its members toact for Antarctica and,once again, members have demonstrated their commitment by making critical decisions at the 2019 meeting.”
Lisa Kelley, IAATO Head of Operations, said: “Visiting Antarctica is a privilege and we all have a responsibility to keep it pristine. We find that our guests are sensitive to the potential impact that tourism can have on our precious places, and thereforeembrace IAATO and Antarctic Treaty System guidelines, stringent bio security measures and wildlife proximity rules.
“Our proven success in conscientious visitor management is the result of forward planning based on long-term understanding of the industry. Focused gatherings such as the IAATO annual meeting help us hone our policies and strategies to protect Antarctica while enabling Antarctic travelers to have an enriching, educational experience,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, new guidelines have been published outlining the necessity to reduce plastic waste on cruise ships and bringing responsible travel to the forefront for Arctic cruise passengers
The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) said it is working with cruise operators to tackle plastic waste onboard ships, as well as at the remote Arctic locations they visit.
“Our members are working to broadly reduce plastic consumption on ships. These guidelines are a way of inviting guests on AECO member vessels to take part in cutting back on plastic. Often from being exposed to Arctic nature, guests are already very aware of such matters and very receptive when it comes to making more sustainable choices when they return home,” said Frigg Jørgensen, AECO Executive Director.
The new guidelines are part of AECO’s ‘Clean Seas Project’ that aimsto cut back on single-use plastic on Arctic expedition cruise vessels, as well as enhancing passenger involvement in beach clean ups and educating passengers, staff and crew in plastic reduction measures.