Is Antarctica the best managed Tourism destination in the world?
Sustainable tourism has received a lot of attention in the last decade or so, with more and more travellers choosing eco-friendly destinations. It is important to ensure that tourism is a sustainable activity without negatively impacting the people and places involved. But how do we determine the level of visitation of a destination that would not affect its sustainability?
While the rest of the world is fighting to buy the cheapest tickets, there’s an entire frozen continent at the end of the earth that has never been permanently occupied by man. The region is accessible only from November to March and is nothing but beautiful, icy wilderness.
In terms of sustainability, is Antarctic tourism really the best in the world? Adjunct Professor in Sustainable Tourism at Central Queensland University and Chairman of Mission Beach Business and Tourism, Dr.Thomas Bauer explores what the rest of the world can learn from Antarctica. Dr.Bauer has visited Antarctica on many occasions as a researcher, guide, lecturer and Zodiac driver.
Under the guidance of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and with the adoption by the Antarctic Treaty Parties, guidelines have been established that allow only a maximum of 100 passengers ashore at a site at any one time.
Firm guidelines are also in place for site visits; including no smoking or eating ashore, no toilets provided, no souveniring of any kind and no approach to wildlife closer than a distance of five metres. Steps are also taken to ensure that visitors do not disturb the fauna and (very limited) flora of Antarctica.
Nearly all Antarctic tourism is ship based and before guides are allowed to work aboard ships that visit South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, they must pass a test set by IAATO that tests their knowledge of current regulations pertaining to visits to Antarctica. Passengers are also required to attend a special IAATO presentations on the Code of Conduct in Antarctica and those who do not attend are not allowed ashore.
Dr. Bauer has suggested that the same requirements could be adopted to National Parks, World Heritage Listed areas and cultural sites such as churches, mosques and temples around the world. Visitors could be required to attend a compulsory briefing on Code of Conduct before being allowed to enter.
With the steady rise of tourists around the globe, it is important to ensure that tourists take responsibility for their conduct at sensitive sites. The negative impacts of tourism could be reduced greatly if tourism destinations around the world adapted guidelines and policies like Antarctica.