IAATO enhances responsible tourism measures

New visitor guidelines and short-term actions

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is introducing a raft of enhanced responsible tourism measures and short-term priorities as members prepare for the 2024/25 Antarctic season. The actions were agreed during the association’s annual meeting in April. They include 17 new IAATO Visitor Site Guidelines, and seven new short-term actions in support of IAATO’s five-year strategic plan Embracing its role as Antarctic Stewards.

The new IAATO guidelines include both marine and terrestrial sites and contain practical guidance for Operators and guides on how they should conduct visits in those sites, considering environmental values and sensitivities.

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Last year the organisation unveiled its five-year strategic plan setting out four mainstays; operators as stewards, purposeful support of research, deliberate resource management plan and persistent proactive measures focused on sustainability. At this year’s IAATO annual meeting, members approved short-term actions for 2024/25, including the development of a new digital application to support guides in the field, incorporating an updated Antarctic Ambassador Program and evolving IAATO’s Observer Program.

In addition, IAATO members agreed the creation of a cruise-only working group to identify new cruise only specific operational procedures to support IAATO’s mission and enhance tools for use as part of the guest experience. The latest working group brings IAATO’s total number of committees to 12 and working groups to 10.

Lisa Kelley, IAATO ‘s Deputy Executive Director and Director of Operations and Government Affairs, said: “It’s an immense privilege to travel to Antarctica and one that comes with a responsibility to do so with no more than a minor or transitory impact. In recognition of this, each year our members come together to discuss and enhance our protocols to strengthen our already robust standards.

“These new measures are part of IAATO’s continued mission to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private sector travel to Antarctica.”

Since IAATO came into being in 1991, member Operators have actively self-managed their activities within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System.

IAATO maintains an extensive database to understand long-term tourism and environmental trends to facilitate decision-making about the responsible management of its Operators’ activities. Its membership encompasses most private-sector tour operators. All member Operator activities in Antarctica are permitted or authorised by Competent Authorities through Environmental Impact Assessments (or equivalent), Advance Notifications and, where relevant, Waste Management Permits, submitted in advance of the season.

Committed to responsible travel, IAATO does not support the development of permanent infrastructure in Antarctica for the purposes of tourism and remains committed to introducing and enhancing procedures and guidelines for the continued protection of Antarctica.

All images credit: Pixabay/Pexels

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