Develop A Sustainable Tourism Industry In The Antarctic Tourism Essay

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The purpose of this paper is to do research of the tourism industry in Antarctica continent according to the research question of How to develop a sustainable tourism industry in the Antarctic? It is a fundamental to have cooperation from every organization related to Antarctica tourism. Since the continent has been consider as fragile and being the most valuable spot to humankind for exploration in many aspects such as environmental issues. Moreover, the management in this region is quite interesting as there are no permanently resident livings, and seven countries making territory claims during the first half of 20th century. In conclusion, the perspectives from tour operators, tourists and the organizations that work closely to Antarctica are very important to improve and preserve as the world heritage site.

Antarctica is the most isolated continent that covers the bottom of the globe; it is also commonly known as the “South Pole”. It is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest place on Earth with no permanent inhabitants living there. Therefore, it is a challenge to explore Antarctica because of the coldest weather and beautiful scenery with ice covering all region, interesting local animals and plant survival in such area. Travel to Antarctica is one kind of adventure tourism and in the mean time, this can also be education tourism as scientists from all over the world come to study the organism and ecosystem. Antarctica is quite expensive to travel to but most of the visitors find that their experiences are exceed their expectations (Lonely Planet, 2010).

This paper also points out about the negative impacts from tourism on Antarctic, especially from human activities toward its environment and means of protecting it. Not only in the Antarctic but also all over the world have concern been expressed about the climate change and global warming. Ozone depletion and melting glaciers are the serious environmental problems to this continent as well. We will see how tourism developments in the Antarctic happen and how to maintain sustainable tourism in this region. There are no restaurants, theaters or shopping malls, what attracts tourists to go there. All of the information above can be found in this paper.

Brief Information and Background about Antarctica

Timeline History

The ancient Greeks who first came up with the idea of this continent named Arktos have known about Antarctica since 350 B.C., but they never actually went there. In the year 1773, James Cook circumnavigated Antarctica that means he was the first person to cross the Antarctic circle. He made a comment: “I make bold to declare that the world will derive no benefit from it” (cool Antarctica, 2001). In 1820, the Antarctic continent was first seen by human eyes from three men whose separate voyages had been given credit that year. During the years 1840 to 1914 there were many historic trips from the travelers eager to explore the continent and many trips failed and tragedy happened such as a ship that sank and the crew perished because they couldn’t stand with the extremely cold weather. The first airplane flight was made by Sir George Hubert Wilkins in the year 1928. December 1, 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was signed to establish the legal framework for the management of Antarctica. In 1991, twenty-four countries signed an agreement that barred exploration for oil or mineral deposit for 50 years (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1999).

Antarctica Geography, Wildlife and Flora

Antarctica is centered on the geographical South Pole with 13.9 million square kilometers or approximately twice the size of Australia. For millions of years snow and ice have built up, making the continent entirely covered by an ice sheet comprises about 98% of Antarctica’s surface which is about 95% of the world’s fresh water reserves. The lowest temperatures can drop down as -89.6°C. Antarctica is ranked as the fifth largest of the seven continents. The continent lacks an indigenous human population, but is home to millions of penguins, seabirds, seals, whales and temporary home to thousand of scientists and their support staff.

The hallmark wildlife of Antarctica is penguins with seven species, only the male hatch single egg for nine weeks on their feet. Penguins feed heavily on fish, squid and crustaceans, its natural enemies are seals and killer whales. Watching flying seabirds is one of the popular activities for tourists while wandering on the cruise. The albatross is the largest flying sea bird with 4 meters wingspan. Other fascinating marine animals are Antarctic seals, using sonar for feeding, mainly on fish, squid and krill (a key species for Antarctic ecosystem). During the 19th and 20th centuries, seals were heavily hunted for their skins, fur and oil, driving them almost to extinction. Today, seals are protected by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, which allows a small quota for scientific examination. The biggest warm-blooded mammals on this continent are whales. They live their entire lives in the water and has a lifespan between 20 and 40 years up to 80. Antarctica has been declared an international whale sanctuary with whaling activities closely monitored by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) (Antarctic Connection, 2010). Many people may be confused and think that there are polar bears in Antarctica but it was wrong because polar bears only live in the North Pole.

Because of the hostile climate, not many plants can grow well since only approximately 2% of Antarctica is ice-free. There are only two native plants that can grow – a grass and a cushion forming pearlwort (laws, 1989). Mosses, liverworts and lichens are the greatest interest to tourist for photography (Bauer, 2001) as they add some color to the region rather than white from the ice sheet.

There are some measures to protect Antarctic wildlife and nature such as:

Do not use aircraft, small boats to disturb wildlife, either sea or land and do not make any loud noise to frighten them.

Do not feed, touch seals, penguins and birds or make anything to cause them to alter their behavior.

Do not damage plants or bring non-native plants or animals into the Antarctic.

Tourism in Antarctica and its development

Antarctica can be referred to a “fragile” and “unknown” continent (Bauer, 2001). The Antarctic tourism industry began in the late 1950s when Chile and Argentina took more than 500 passengers to the South Shetland Islands. The world first expedition ship called “Lindblad Explorer” was designed in 1969 for carrying tourists to the Antarctic; this was in the period of modern cruise industry. Since then, the number of tourists has grown from a few hundred to more than 30,000 each year as shown in figure 1 below. Tourism continues to expand; WTO (2000) forecast estimated that about 1.56 billion tourists would arrive by the year 2020.

Figure 1: The statistics of tourists to Antarctica by nationality in 2008-2009 (source: IAATO)

Large scale and uncontrolled tourism can have a destructive impact on the continent’s environment. Therefore, all of the shipping companies, travel agencies, yachts and air operations have become members of “International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators” or IAATO founded in 1991 to promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible action in the Antarctic (IAATO, n.d.).

No visa is required for travelling to Antarctica, but travelers have to check with the tour operator in case they make stops at other countries. Travel insurance is highly recommended. Late October through early April is suitable time to travel because it is the ice recede period, days are long – up to 24 hours of daylight in December and January. The gateway ports to Antarctic region include Valparaiso, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina and Invercargill / Bluff; New Zealand (Travel and Leisure, 2010).

Antarctica is an almost completely inaccessible destination with no land connections or regular commercial flights. Therefore, the only way to experience Antarctica is by joining a program conducted by tour operators: cruises, yachts, over flights without landings. With the absence of a local Antarctic population, one interesting question is; “Who will benefit from Antarctic tourism activities?” In my opinion, the one who will get the benefit from Antarctic tourism is the tour operator in the term of economics but in the meantime, the tourist will also gain their truly spectacular experience where it cannot be bought.

As mentioned in the introduction, travelling to Antarctica can be categorized as adventure and education tourism because of its geography surrounding natural laboratories for scientific research, which cannot be done anywhere else on Earth. The research involves government agencies, private industry, scientists and students from the university faculties. The most interesting research falls among the following subjects: geology, glaciology, oceanography, astronomy, meteorology, atmospheric sciences, biology and medical science (Antarctic Connection, 2010). Therefore, most of the tourists going to Antarctica are scientists and student groups to discover case studies and learn from real experience.

What make people want to visit Antarctica once in a lifetime and what are the activities for the tourist while they are here will be described. People who love adventure, challenge and want to explore the extraordinary experience will plan their trip here. Gunn (1988) describes attraction as “on location places in regions that not only provide things for tourists to see and to do but also offer the magnetism for travel. The attractions is the most powerful component of supply side of tourism”

Here are the lists of tourist attractions in Antarctica;

Natural Attractions – tourist can watch a great natural view from the tall mountains, massive glaciers, ice shelves, huge floating icebergs, flora, seabird, seals and penguins.

Scientific Research Stations – the popular stations for tourist are the Argentinean and Esperanza. Visits to scientific stations provide a chance to meet inhabitants who spent long periods of their time and have another opportunity to discuss and exchange their travel experience in this region.

Historic Sites, Monuments and Huts – where the explorers left behind, the most frequently visited huts is the one built by Scott and Shackleton on Ross Island. One concern problem is that too many visitors may damage the sites, therefore the 33 historic huts and sites are managed by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust and restrict for the maximum number of visitors inside the huts and to ensure that the number is not exceeded (Bauer, 2001).

Whaling Station – Whaling has become unacceptable for conservationists and these mammals are nearly extinct, but stations such as Whalers Bay and Stromness are included in many cruise itineraries.

Travelling to Antarctica is risk-taking; as a result, a professional tour operator that prepares all the necessary equipment and contingency plan is recommended. Before planning to go to Antarctica, the tourist should prepare and know their capabilities. Health check-up is essential, and thick clothes are very important to keep the body warm. Bear in mind that an accident can happen at any time. Respect the regulations strictly such as do not walk onto glaciers, where you can fall into hidden crevasses.

Environmental Impacts from Antarctica Tourism

Many principal causes from the tourism can impact the ecosystem of Antarctica; for example pollution through sewage, fuels, oil, waste and noise from the transportation and human — both tourists and scientists. Moreover, introduction of non-native soils, plants and animals, or even travel on foot and disturbance of local bird or seal breeding colonies also cause an impact. This is a very serious problem to the earth as it may destroy nature and accumulate into a big issue. Hence, it is one of the tour operator’s responsibilities to explain, train and advise the tourists how they have to behave during the trip. The information must contain clear, useful information of do and don’t in Antarctica with the reason at the end so that the tourist will understand what will affect the environment if they break the rules.

Climate change involves human interventions such as the emissions of greenhouse gases; the experience from National Antarctic Programs over the two decades demonstrates that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in Antarctica can yield huge benefits to global environment. Also all economic activities such as fisheries should be managed in a preventive way. According to the research, during the years 2004-2005 approximately 50,000 tourists traveled to Antarctica, therefore the average of each person emission of CO2 was 4 tons during their stay, which usually lasted several months (Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, 2009).

Glacier melt and ozone depletion are major problems to Antarctica as it affect the living creature. The main cause is from global warming that accelerate the melting of glaciers. Those effects include excessive flooding, rise in sea level and habitat loss (Buzzle, 2010). Chlorofluorocarbon or CFC’s found in aerosol sprays, air conditioning systems and refrigerators is a major cause of the destruction of the ozone layer over Antarctica. There is an isolated region in the atmosphere which had a circular motion called polar vortex and researchers believe that the gases will float about 20-50 km above the ground towards Antarctica, thus, creating a big hole above (thinkquest, 2010).

Moreover, poor visitors management can cause ecology damage such as stepping on the moss can affect its slow growing, disturbing wildlife can affect their behavior and their breeding, rubbish and waste from the ships and cruises can distort the balance of ecology. Even an accident such as oil spill and chemical leak can have a big impact, as it will take a long time to disappear from the sea surface (Gee, 2003).

Future forecast for Antarctica in the year 2100 are 33% reduction of sea ice, all main krill will experience food limitations, and the number of mike whale will be depleted by 5-30%. A possible adaptation is to protect the area and maintain stable sea ice, control human activities to minimize impact and to implement appropriate biosecurity measures.

Antarctica plays an important role in the Earth’s climate system as the research is crucial for understanding global warming, in conclusion it need to be monitored closely for every activity occurring in Antarctica.

Regulation of Antarctic Tourism under the Antarctic Treaty System

Antarctica is different from any other place in the world; it is a continent that is not owned by any country, organization or individual. The unique political situation makes the management of tourism activities here unlike any other tourist destinations. Seven countries making territory claims in Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. The treaty was signed on December 1, 1959 with a total of 44 countries signing the treaty; 7 claim territory in Antarctica, 12 are Original Signatories and 27 are Consultative Parties (Australian Antarctic Division, 2000). The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs) hold annual meetings to discuss issues and make recommendations to each party’s government for the management of Antarctic affairs. The Treaty describes measures for rules setting to each area for proper use of the environment (Australian Antarctic Division, 2000).

The main objectives of Treaty state that Antarctica is to be used for peaceful purposes and prohibit for military activities or any weapons, there are freedom for scientific research and scientific information sharing, radioactive and nuclear materials are banned (skwirk, 2010). It is good to have at least one organization to control and be responsible for the remote land like Antarctica otherwise there would not have been the land left until the present time.

U.S diplomats proposed expanding the 50 years old of Antarctic Treaty System to include the restrictions on tourism. The Obama administration pushing the limits on the size of cruise ships sailing and the number of passengers bring to ashore to protect Antarctica’s environment under international law restriction on tourism. The purpose is to minimize the accidental of marine oil spills to ensure that the tourism is responsible in safety and environmentally (fox news, 2010)

Figure 2.1: Antarctica Territorial Claims (Source: Australia Antarctic Division)

Figure 2.2: Antarctica Seven Countries Territorial Claims

Figure 2.1 shows the big picture of the Antarctica and the Southern Ocean Territorial Claims by seven countries where figure 2.2 shows the small picture of those seven countries claims for clearly illustrate.

Not many places in the Earth where there has never been war, the environment is flawlessly and fully protected which is the place where scientific research has full authority such like Antarctica. Because of no original inhabitant in this region, there should be some government sector to operate and monitor on it. The objectives of the Treaty is to ensure that the area is zone free for nuclear test and used the area for peaceful mission only, to promote international scientific and to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

Is Tourism in Antarctica Sustainable? And how to develop a sustainable tourism industry in the Antarctic

Over the past few decades, tourism industry is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. So far, Antarctica is one of a few areas in the world that remained untouchable whereas the number of tourists has been steadily increasing according to the statistics from the beginning of Antarctic tourism in 1960s until now. The major environmental impact in Antarctic is from tourism; therefore sustainable tourism has been introduced and integrated into this area.

Sustainable Tourism is an effective balance among economic, environmental and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development to ensure that there is less impact to the place visited and to guarantee long-term benefits for all community involved (UNWTO, 2004), including continue keeping the natural resources for our next generation to be seen as well as we have seen it today.

“Sustainability” becomes the most frequently addressed in tourism during 1990s in order to maintain, preserve or rebuild resources for tourism development that have the least negative impacts on the natural environments, additionally, this is more environmentally friendly kind of tourism (Bauer, 2001).

The term sustainable development is now replacing the old word conservation. One kind of tourism that is the expression of sustainable tourism development is called ecotourism (Ritchie & Goeldner, 1994), implying that tourism development and resource protection can be compatible. During the progress of tourism, ecotourism offers opportunity for financial support for resource protection (Ziffer, 1989). Does tourism in Antarctica fall into ecotourism category? Since it offers travel experience with educational and outdoor adventure. Ecotourism can defined as travelling to remote or natural areas to enhance understanding with appreciation of environment and cultural heritage while avoiding deterioration to remain the same condition for others experiences (Figgis, 1993). Therefore, tourism in Antarctica could be one kind of ecotourism.

The sustainable development goal in Antarctica including the role of tourism that focused on destination rather than human development. It is believed that tourists who visit Antarctica could be spokesperson and become more active in protecting the continent because they have seen the real scenario in front and would have the feeling to preserve this valuable territory. One of the article survey and interview with the tour organizer and tourist about the overview of the Antarctica tourism in the future, many of the interviewees believe that more regulation is really needed for effectively management and also the enforce restrictive policies should be issue. The way to improve the role of Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) for the regulation of Antarctic tourism is to establish a commission with the representatives from main tourism countries that reported to ATS (Lamers, 2009). Accreditation system set up has been suggested for tourism operators to guarantee safe and for industry standards (Australia, 2004).

The issue of specific restriction and prohibition of the number of tourists or ships visiting Antarctica has been raised, but that would be difficult because of political will and difficulties of enforcing as countries might not want to limit their economical opportunities in such area. Although the general principles of Antarctic tourism are accepted on environmental quality and human safety, in terms of future scale and the control of tourism development still in argument. Some opinion seeing tourism as a harmless activity, which can create ambassador of Antarctica against the devastating actions that might happen in the future. Second perspective sees tourism as a potential source of income for local stakeholder such as National Antarctic Program or NAPs. Third perspective sees that tourism is allowable as long as there is no negative impact to the environment (Lamers, 2009). The last perspective is a good conclusion due to the fact that travel with harmless to the nature is one kind of sustainable travelling therefore the clearly tourism policy towards Antarctica should be made suddenly.

Planning with the solution is quite a good review in order to maintain the last resources of the world. Adaptation to the situation is also necessary, we must change our life before we are force to do so (Thomas, 2009).

How can sustainable tourism in Antarctica be achieved? It is not an accountability of any company, organization or country but it need cooperation from everyone who involve in such businesses or places such as the tour operator, tourist, government or even the local who live near the tourist attraction. “Antarctica is the ultimate destination for anyone interested in natural history but it also challenges those people who visit to think broadly about our responsibilities to all life on Earth.” That’s the view of Dr.Robert Lambert, a lecturer on Tourism and the Environment at The University of Nottingham, who has just returned from the Antarctic as an observer for the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) (Science Daily, 2008). Hence, any trash should not be leave in the area to maintain natural and undestroyed, the tourist should realize that they are short-term visit, full responsible and ethical to surrounding environment is essential.


In order to practice sustainable tourism in Antarctica, it should be clearly understood the concept that to be sustainable is to travel with conscious and deeply understand the value of nature, be concerned and realize the consequences that might happen in the future are not only in a positive way but also in negative ways. The concept of sustainable tourism is wider scope on economics, environmental and socio-cultural whereas ecotourism is focus on environmental and ecological issues. In addition, sustainable tourism is emphasize on indigenous people, in this case it mean the local fauna that live in Antarctica. The preservationist anxious that in the future Antarctica will be in the crisis of global warming which is the result from human activities that may cause the fauna become extinct. In addition, the ozone depletion that makes the world get higher temperature and make the glacier melt is one of the possibilities for the disappearance of Antarctica Continent in the next decade. A big flooding could happen as Antarctica has about 95% of the world’s fresh water reserves, therefore it is possibility effect to the near located countries and also to the world.

An active contribution to the community is one kind of sustainable tourism as some tourists might volunteer to help create or preserve the natural resources. The tourist who visit to the rare place of the world like Antarctica must be arrogant and feel cherish that give a power to do something to help promote or preserve the precious place before it is too late to protect. They may give a donation to the foundation, or write a story on the internet to share their experience and their feeling visiting the wonderland like Antarctica. This is another way to express their intention of how important to preserve and make it sustainable. Since the current world is relying on the cyber and internet, the information putting should be trustworthy to avoid misunderstanding.

To answer the research question: How to develop a sustainable tourism industry in the Antarctic? will not be easy if there is a lack of cooperation from many sides or parties that have to relate and share in Antarctic tourism. Henceforth, the organization that have influence in Antarctica such as the seven countries that making territory claims or Antarctic Treaty Consultative Party (ATCP), International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) should have an explicitly guideline to the concerning parties. Updated regulation and prohibition is crucial due to the world has change and the old rules may not comply with the new facing problems. As the Antarctic tourism regulated by ATCP has been considered weak and too slow in implementation process and decision-making (Bastmeijer & Roura, 2004), also many regulations are not legally compulsory (Bastmeijer, 2003) therefore transparently operation is very important in the self-regulatory regime.

World Tourism Organisation (WTO) launched the principle of sustainable tourism and defined as: “development that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems” (WTO, 1993).

The success of a sustainable tourism development in the Antarctic should be combining with the sustainable use, resource conservation, economic development and diversification, learning about the natural and cultural environment (Wylie, 1994). Good sources of information and knowledge are very important in development since the tourists may not know deeply about Antarctica as scientist, for that reason the tourists must have useful information about the place visit and know how to behave during the trip. Such information is very vital to avoid the risk of effecting an environment and ecosystem. Travelling with unharmed nature is the best solution to develop sustainable tourism since we can be appreciate the nature and at the same time can keep the same resources last long.

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