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IAATO: Traffic Up for the 2012/2013 Season

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The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM XXXV) this week that tourism is expected to increase during the 2012-13 season, with an estimated 34,950 Antarctic passengers overall to be carried by IAATO operators. However, this is still well below the 46,265 carried during the 2007-08 Antarctic season.

The information was contained in one of several Information Papers on tourism activities presented at ATCM, which began Monday, June 11 and runs through Wednesday, June 20 in Hobart, Australia.

The IAATO papers provide the Treaty Parties with background information and statistics on the tourism activities of its members during the past year, and are designed to inform the meeting discussions and the decision-making process at the annual gathering of governmental representatives, observers and experts. IAATO participates at ATCM as an invited Expert.

IAATO Administrative Director Steve Wellmeier said that in addition to presenting policy makers with statistics and estimates of tourism numbers for the next season, the Information Papers and Fact Sheet provide the Treaty Parties with updates about the association’s recent work and activities, educational outreach efforts, as well as ideas and proposals on effective Antarctic tourism management.

“There’s more to Antarctic tourism than the number of visitors each year. Ensuring that tourists become ambassadors for Antarctic conservation is always a priority, and each year additional tools to support this mission are added to the IAATO toolbox, whether through our members’ efforts to educate travelers about the effects of climate change on the Antarctic environment, or in our outreach campaign to non-IAATO, Antarctica-bound yachts. The tourism industry has an important role to play, and we are pleased to share these accomplishments at ATCM,” he noted.

“It is also vital to inform the Treaty Parties what we’ve been doing as an association to strengthen our internal systems and communications, such as field staff training through our new online assessment; the new IAATO Enhanced Observer Scheme, which was trialed for the first time this past season; and newly adopted compliance and dispute resolution rules of procedure.

“IAATO is committed to these efforts, not only for the association’s internal integrity and robustness, but also to ensure transparency and accountability for our Antarctic tourism activities,” he added.

IAATO reported in early May that its final tourism numbers for the 2011-12 season, which ended in early April, were 26,519 passengers. Following four years of declining passenger numbers to Antarctica due to the effects of the worldwide economic slowdown and, more recently, the ban on HFO in Antarctic waters, tourism is expected to increase next season, with an estimated 34,950 Antarctic passengers overall to be carried by IAATO operators.

Wellmeier noted that demand to visit Antarctica is expected to continue, and IAATO members will work together so that operations are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, and that tourism activities have no more than a minor or transitory impact on the Antarctic environment.