The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has announced its tourism figures for the 2014-2015 season.
The total numbers of visitors travelling to Antarctica, with IAATO members, was 36,702, a slight decrease of 2% compared to the previous season. Overall, since 2011-2012, levels of visitation have been increasing modestly, but are still considerably less than the peak of 46,265 during the 2007-2008 austral summer.
There was a small decrease across all sectors of Antarctic tourism, except for trips to the interior of the continent, which increased by 19% (70 people) but accounts for only 1% of the total number of visitors. Visiting the coastal regions of the Antarctic Peninsula, on ships carrying fewer than 500 passengers, remains the most popular form of tourism, accounting for 73% of visitors. A quarter (26%) of tourists did not set foot ashore in Antarctica because they were travelling on ‘cruise only’ vessels, which do not make landings.
American and Australian visitors remained the most numerous, accounting for 34% and 11% of the total number respectively, almost unchanged from last year. British (9%), Chinese (8%) and German (8%) visitors were the next most abundant nationalities in Antarctica last season.
IAATO also released estimated numbers of visitors for next season, 2015-2016. Total numbers of visitors are expected to rise to 40,029 with the main increase expected in the sector of seaborne tourism with landings (28,304) due to the introduction of two new ships to the IAATO fleet.
IAATO’s Annual Meeting brings together the associations 124 members who are committed to advocating and promoting the practice of safe and environmentally responsible tourism to the Antarctic.
Marlynda Elstgeest, Chair of the IAATO Executive Committee and from the Netherlands said, “IAATO’s members come together every year to determine and examine procedures, policies, emerging challenges and tasks. Representatives from Antarctic Treaty Parties, and other organizations with an interest in Antarctica’s future, are also invited. Given that we’re in Rotterdam this year, we’re particularly delighted that representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands are able to attend and are generously sponsoring our annual dinner. “