Two Operators, five provisional Operators and five new Associates have joined the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).
Scenic Expeditions and Ice Trek have become IAATO Operators; Intrepid Travel, Residences at Sea, Students on Ice, Sur Expeditions and Viking Expeditions have been granted Provisional Operator status and a further five; Arbue Services S.A., Inmarsat, RSR Nemo Ship Management, Newayer Travel and V Ships Leisure have gained Associate Member status, making the total IAATO membership to 113.
The new operators, provisional operators and associates were voted in by the IAATO membership.
Each year at IAATO’s annual meeting – normally held in late April/early May – members gather to have open discussions on safety, environmental protection and self-management. Decision-making is supported by recommendations developed throughout the year by IAATO’s many dedicated committees and working groups. This concludes with the voting in of new policies on best practice which support the Association’s mission.
Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on international travel, the 2020 annual meeting was hosted via video conference, allowing members from across the globe to connect and discuss various aspects of IAATO business, which included operator voting on new members, as well as safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a condition of membership, all new Provisional Operators will be required to carry an IAATO observer on board to witness their operations in the field. Observations not only provide a forum for feedback, but offer a further opportunity for the membership to make sure that IAATO’s robust operational guidelines are upheld in practice.
Since its inception in 1991, IAATO has taken a proactive role in managing pressure on the Antarctic environment, working within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System to help visitors have an enriching experience, whilst having no more than a minor or transitory impact on the region. The annual launch of the IAATO Ship Scheduler – a tool which restricts the time, number of passengers and daily visits allowed to the most popular sites on the Antarctic Peninsula – is a key part of responsible visitor management.
Among the enhanced measures voted in at this year’s meeting was an update to the Reducing Waste Guidelines for visitors to Antarctica; emphasising the importance of Refuse Reuse, Reduce and Recycle* in preventing litter and harmful plastics from ending up in the environment. Additionally, new guidelines, IAATO Vessel Helicopter Guidelines and Etiquette, was also voted in, extending guidance beyond the standard vessel operating procedures.
The newest affiliates bring IAATO’s membership to 113; comprising 46 operators, 8 provisional operators, and 59 associate members.
Lead image: Scenic Eclipse in Antarctica