The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has welcomed six new provisional operators into its fold this month, including four high-end cruise brands.
Crystal Cruises, start-up Atlas Ocean Voyages, and the reborn Swan Hellenic were among this year’s batch of provisional operators, all of which have been marketing their Antarctica operations for some time aboard Crystal Endeavor, World Navigator and SH Minerva respectively.
Also granted a Provisional Operators status are Norwegian Cruise Lines, Vantage Deluxe World Travel (aboard the new five-star Ulstein X-BOW hulled Ocean Explorer), along with sailboat and schooner operator, Alegria Marineros.
This year IAATO also welcomed two new Associates (travel agents, tour operators, tourism bureaus, service providers, etc); namely Navijets Agents from Argentina and non-profit, Falklands Conservation.
The new provisional operators were voted in by the IAATO membership during the organisation’s recent virtual annual meeting, boosting the total membership to 109.
Each year at IAATO’s annual meeting 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 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 continued impacts of COVID-19 on international travel, the 2021 annual meeting was hosted via video conference, allowing members from across the globe to connect and discuss various aspects of IAATO business, included the voting-in of new members, committee chairs and enhanced guidelines for safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robyn Woodhead, Incoming Chair of IAATO’s Executive Committee, said: “As well as Antarctica, many IAATO members also operate expeditions to other environmentally sensitive areas, as well as educational excursions to all seven continents. The experience and awareness these tour operators have gained through their IAATO membership has allowed the spirit of environmentally safe and responsible travel to extend to nearly every remote region of the world.”
As a condition of membership, all new Provisional Operators are 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 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 that 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.
The newest affiliates bring IAATO’s membership to 42 operators, 14 provisional operators, 48 associate members and five non-profit Associate members.
Lead image: Henrique Setim/Unsplash