Punta Arenas in the extreme south of Chile will be hosting until next Thursday the four-day annual meeting of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, IAATO which has a confirmed attendance of over a hundred representatives from the industry.
Chile had offered to host the 24 meeting and its request was proposed and approved at the previous IAATO meeting held in the United States.
“We are very satisfied with the lobbying both from the private and government sectors to bring to Magallanes region over 90% of Antarctica tour operators. This comes to confirm the significance of the region and Punta Arenas as a gate to Antarctica”, said the head of the Chilean regional tourism office, Maria Jose Benavides.
From Santiago the head of the Antarctica desk at the Foreign Ministry Camilo Sanhueza, and who was head of the team that lobbied to have Punta Arenas host the event said “it was an excellent news for Chile, not only because Chile is a very active member of the Antarctic treaty but also because IAATO coincides with our policy of supporting responsible and controlled Antarctic tourism”
Chilean officials said that the country’s delegates will try during the meetings to recover the predominance Punta Arenas had a few years ago as the gateway and logistics base to Antarctica trips both for tourism and scientific research, now mostly concentrated in Ushuaia, Argentine Tierra del Fuego. In support of Punta Arenas, the other Chilean southern point, Puerto Williams will also try to attract some of the business.
IAATO Vice-president Steve Wellmeier said there were great expectations about the coming four day discussions, and it was the first time there was such a numerous attendance.
“We have an estimated 120 delegates registered which is a record; we are going to discuss several issues related to Antarctic tourism and we have a visit planned to Puerto Williams”, said Wellmeier.
IAATO was founded in 1991 in support of the environment and sustained and controlled tourism. Currently it has 111 company members, associates and affiliates from: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, UK and US.
During the 2011/12 season the Antarctic tourist activity through IATTO members totalled 26.519 visitors, at 35 different sites. The overall turnover of the industry is estimated in 300 million dollars
The schedule of events is as follows:
April 22: Annual Meeting Day 1 (Members, Associates and Affiliates only)
April 23: Annual Meeting Day 2 (Morning session: Members, Associates and Affiliates only. Afternoon session: open for all invitees).
April 24: Annual Meeting Day 3 (Open session for all invitees) Meeting concludes in afternoon.
April 25: All-day Search and Rescue (SAR) workshop with Antarctic Treaty Party and Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) participation.