Antarctica attracting more visitors, many leaving from SA and South America

More people are flying to Antarctica from South African and South American shores for excursions into the continent’s icy interior. On Monday, the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) released its 2016-17 tourism figures‚ ahead of its annual meeting in Edinburgh‚ Scotland.

The total number of visitors travelling to Antarctica with IAATO members was 44‚367‚ an increase of 15% on the previous year‚ the IAATO said in a statement.

Most travel to the continent is seaborne. However‚ there has been an increase in deep-field travel into the interior from SA and South America of 10% over the previous year. This category accounts for only 1% of Antarctic tourism.

IAATO executive committee chairperson Bob Simpson said it is important to keep travel to Antarctica sustainable.

„Visiting Antarctica is a great privilege for anyone. Our goal is to provide our guests with a safe‚ enriching experience while leaving no discernible evidence of our visit,“ he said. „With demand for Antarctic tourism staying robust‚ our members’ experience in developing and delivering sustainable operations over the past 25 years will be of huge benefit in supporting the long-term conservation of Antarctica.“

IAATO reported that overall there has been a steady increase in the cruise sector of the tourism industry since 2011-12. It estimated that in 2017-18, the number of visitors to Antarctica will increase by a further 5% to 46‚385.

Ninety-eight percent of travellers depart from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula. The majority of these travel from Chile or Argentina on vessels carrying fewer than 500 passengers and offer excursions ashore. The sector grew by 20% in 2016-17‚ largely due to the introduction of two vessels.

The air-cruise sector‚ in which tourists fly to the Antarctic Peninsula before joining a cruise vessel‚ showed the most growth at 36%. Tourists cruising into the Antarctic Peninsula without making landings ashore declined by 8%.

Most Antarctic tourists are Americans‚ followed by Chinese‚ Australian‚ German and British. „American visitors remain the most numerous‚ increasing by 7% in 2016-17, accounting for 33% of the total number. The number of Chinese visitors increased by 25% compared to the previous year‚ moving them up to second place behind the US. Australian‚ German and British visitors were the next most abundant nationalities‚ increasing by 5%‚ 45% and 19% respectively‚“ IAATO said.

IAATO’s members are governed by the Antarctic Treaty‚ which requires tour operators to refrain from making any landings in Antarctica from vessels carrying more than 500 passengers. Operators must also co-ordinate trips so there are no clashes at landing sites, with only one vessel allowed to visit a landing site at a time.

Related Posts