New figures released on Monday by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), estimate that 36,545 tourists will travel with IAATO members to Antarctica next season, 2014-2015. The information was reported at the first day of the 37th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in Brasilia, which IAATO attend as Invited Experts.
This number has only marginally increased since the previous season’s anticipated figure. It consists of a slight decrease in both deep field and cruise only tourism and modest increases in combined air/cruise and traditional ship based tourism, which both offer opportunities for participants to go ashore.
Since 2009-2010, the total number of visitors has remained between 34,000 and 37,000 except for 2011-12, when numbers dipped to 26,500 principally due to the ban on the carriage of heavy fuel oil by ships in Antarctic waters.
As with previous seasons, most (71%) of tourists will continue to travel to the Antarctic Peninsula onboard vessels carrying fewer than 500 passengers that offer landings ashore. Cruise only voyages, using ships with more than 500 passengers, do not make landings and are expected to account for 27% of visitors. Tourism involving flights to the Antarctic interior is predicted to be around 1% of the total number.
Marlynda Elstgeest, Chair of the IAATO Executive Committee said, “We really look forward to participating in the ATCM each year. IAATO presents information that not only contributes towards Treaty Party discussions and decision making about the future of Antarctica, but also demonstrates its members’ commitment to operating in a safe, self sufficient and environmentally responsible way.”
Final figures for the 2013-14 season, which concluded this month, will be released in June. Preliminary reports suggest that these are not significantly different to the number of visitors in 2012-2013 (34,316).
The vast majority of tourism voyages operate in the Antarctic Peninsula region during the five-month austral summer season (from November to March), departing from Ushuaia or, to a lesser extent, from other ports north of the Antarctic Treaty Area.
IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic. IAATO currently has 118 members. IAATO Members work together to develop, adopt and implement operational standards that mitigate potential environmental impacts. Numerous guidelines have been adopted over the last 20 years that have proven to be successful methods in avoiding such impacts.