Falkland Islands tourism ambassadors Steph Middleton and Carli Sudder are returning from the United States after attending this year’s International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) conference in Newport, Rhode Island. Steph Middleton is Executive Director of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, while Carl Sudder is Tourism Coordinator at Sulivan Shipping and Chair of the Falklands Travel Association.
Steph Middleton is Executive Director of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, while Carl Sudder is Tourism Coordinator at Sulivan Shipping and Chair of the Falklands Travel Association.
H.E. Mr Nigel Phillips CBE, the Commissioner for South Georgia as well as Governor of the Falkland Islands also attended the conference.
IAATO was founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic. This year’s conference ran from May 1-4, and delivered information on the Antarctic tourist season 2017-2018, which ran from November to March.
Steph and Carli were among the delegates who learned that overall, the total number of Antarctic visitors in 2017-2018 was 51,707, an increase of 17% compared to the previous season. Of these, 41,996 travelled by sea to Antarctica on vessels offering excursions ashore.
IAATO members abide by the Antarctic Treaty System - tour operators refrain from making any landings in Antarctica from vessels carrying more than 500 passengers.
They also coordinate with each other so that not more than one vessel is at a landing site at any one time, no more than 100 people are ashore at once and a staff: passenger ratio of up to 1:20 is maintained.
This season, US visitors were the most numerous, accounting for 33% of the total number. Chinese visitors were the second most numerous, accounting for 16% of all visitors. Australian, German and British visitors were the next most enthusiastic, accounting for 11%, 7% and 7% respectively.
IAATO’s Executive Director, Dr Damon Stanwell-Smith, said: “IAATO operators are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to operate responsibly and deliver strong conservation messages to their guests who we hope will return home as ambassadors for its (Antartica’s) preservation.”
IAATO will present its latest figures at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Buenos Aires on May 13-18, while Steph and Carli, delays notwithstanding, should be back in the Falklands on Saturday May 12. (Penguin News).-