Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 October 2009
Antarctic tourism is evolving at an ever-increasing pace. More than 7000 tourists, a record number, visited the Antarctic aboard cruise ships, yachts, and aircraft during the 1992/1993 season. As annual tourist, tour operator, cruise, and cruise ship totals increase, so do the number of landing sites used for tour visits. Although the Antarctic tourism industry was once characterized by small expedition-sized vessels, 50% of Antarctic cruise passengers travelled aboard ships with a capacity of 250 or more during the 1992/1993 season. These developments present challenges to Antarctic policy makers. There is growing awareness that environmental issues arising from Antarctic tourist activity are increasingly important, but, to date, comprehensive data on Antarctic tourism are not available from a central source. This study compiles data from numerous sources in order to develop a clearer picture of the nature and scale of Antarctic tourist activity. In an effort to present an overview of Antarctic tourism, data from the 1992/1993 season are considered along with important issues in the tourism debate, including significant trends and recent developments in the tourism industry, Antarctic tourism research, tourist landings in Antarctica, industrial self-regulation, emerging issues, Antarctic Treaty negotiations on tourism, and national initiatives to improve dialogue between the industry and Antarctic policy makers. Research is underway to understand better the nature of tourist visits and the effect they have on the Antarctic environment and related ecosystems. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) plays an important role in disseminating information to tour operators planning visits to the Antarctic, but more could be done by this organization and non-members of IAATO to comply with Treaty provisions. Improved compliance with Treaty provisions and tour operator and visitor guidelines is needed, at least until the environmental effects of tour visits are better understood and the more comprehensive regulation set out in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty is implemented.