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PROSPECTS FOR POLAR TOURISM. John M. Snyder and Bernard Stonehouse (Editors). 2007. Wallingford: CABI. xiv + 318p, illustrated, hard cover. ISBN 978-1-84593-247-3. £60.00.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2008

Debra J. Enzenbacher
Bath Spa University, School of Science and the Environment, Newton St Loe, Bath BA2 9BN.
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Book Review
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

Every reviewer operates from a vantage point, and it flavours how a book is read and interpreted, in this case as a geography academic with extensive polar experience, lecturing in tourism management since 1996.

Prospects for polar tourism makes a significant contribution to the literature and contains stimulating ideas and insights. It is a call to action and, if read by the people who most need to read it, has the potential to make a difference. This interesting book is the second edited collection on polar tourism issues. The first appeared in 1995 and was edited by Hall and Johnston, the former of whom provides the foreword. Coincidentally, they both have 17 chapters, although unlike the other, this book is divided into four parts, headed ‘Tourism and the polar environment,’ ‘Economic roles of polar tourism,’ ‘Developments in Antarctic tourism,’ and ‘Managing the new realities.’ In keeping with the environmental focus of the book, the paper used for text pages is Forest Stewardship Council certified.

There is a preponderance of Antarctic material in this text, which may disappoint Arctic specialists. While a serious attempt has been made to include material relating to all eight Arctic nations (Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States), equal coverage is not achieved. One example is the inclusion of material written by representatives of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), but not the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) headquartered in Svalbard. Of the 17 chapters, nine deal specifically with the Antarctic or sub-Antarctic, three with the Arctic (one each solely on Alaska and Canada), and five with both polar regions. Somewhat atypically, the editors wrote 10 of the 17 chapters. Three are co-written, with Snyder authoring four on his own and Stonehouse collaborating with one or two others on three chapters.

The range of perspectives is a key strength of the book, especially those offered by industry practitioners. The editors note that all contributors are involved professionally in different aspects of polar management, but some affiliations are not made clear. At least one author repeats, in large part, material published elsewhere. The index and references to other chapters within the text will prove useful to readers who dip into it. Students especially should appreciate these features. Overall, this work builds nicely on the first polar tourism volume and drives the subject forward in an important way.

At the core of this work lies substantial discussion about the use of polar tourism as a tool for economic development; how polar tourism impacts can best be identified, assessed, and managed; and reasons why the polar regions rely on the industry and tourists to self-regulate. Chapter 14 is particularly cogent. In it Snyder considers issues and approaches in managing polar tourism and the enormity of the task at hand. Will growing numbers of tourists test the limits of the current approach taken to tourism management in Antarctica (page 240)? He notes that one hurdle is the ability to discern cause and effect given limited knowledge about environmental changes caused by natural events and tourism activity and the need to understand the complex inter-relationships between them. ‘The capacity to accurately monitor tourism, revise tourism management plans, alter visitor activities and behaviour, and implement appropriate environmental conservation measures depends on the answers to these questions’ (page 235). Other vexing issues are raised, including economic dependency of local communities on tourism, the exposure of environmental resources to additional risks, and growing demand for infrastructure (page 238). One is left wondering whether the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) can manage/regulate Antarctic tourism effectively and if tourism development is an appropriate choice for particular Arctic destinations.

Chapter 5 on ‘Tourism in rural Alaska’ is especially interesting and yields valuable insights from stakeholders linked to wide-ranging tourism activities. Although it cites the least literature, its five authors relay a great deal of valuable information.

Robbins (Chapter 6) reflects on the community-based tourism plan he helped develop as part of a pilot project in Pangnirtung, in the area now called Nunavut (Canada's newest territory). Although this work was conducted in the early 1980s, it demonstrates the value in publishing past work with the benefit of hindsight. Of particular interest was his documentation of the chasm between Inuit perceptions of sites valued by their culture based on usage (for example, fishing, hunting, camping, berry picking) and sites of interest to tourists (for example, those offering scenic beauty), which were not so prized. Among the barriers to tourism development was the lack of understanding of what appealed to visitors. Project work helped to address problems and improve communication between stakeholder groups so that development was compatible with efforts to conserve and preserve natural and cultural heritage resources.

There is ample material in this book to ponder. Chapter 10 offers an enlightening discussion of adventure tourism in Antarctica, including recent incidents, risk determinants, and policy developments and suggests further research is needed. IAATO representatives pose a stark question in Chapter 12: ‘[w]ill scientific stations become future hotels to supplement the costs of research programmes?’ (page 205).

An engaging review of the first 50 years of Antarctic tourism research is provided by Stonehouse and Crosbie in Chapter 13. It draws on a cross-section of disciplines and will assist those new to or established in this field. Although the authors do not claim it to be exhaustive, the review of polar tourism research by Stewart and others (2005) escaped their attention and warrants a mention. The authors state they ‘are unaware of any definitive listing of cruise ships and voyages from the start of the industry’ (page 216). At the risk of appearing self-serving, this reviewer's doctoral dissertation contains such a list covering known cruise and naval ships, operators, dates, passenger numbers, cruise numbers (where available), and areas visited from 1957/58 to March 1994 (Enzenbacher Reference Enzenbacher1995).

Tracey's work is well presented in Chapter 16, which covers ‘Tourism management on the Southern Oceanic Islands.’ Focusing on five case studies, he suggests that the marked similarities between management provisions for these islands provide a model of ‘best-practice’ worthy of consideration in other remote wilderness areas experiencing increased pressures due to tourism (page 281).

The final chapter identifies critical elements lacking in the management of tourism under the ATS. It offers valuable discussion on the role monitoring should play and the need for clear objectives. Bertram and Stonehouse report that ‘the first signs of degradation are starting to appear at heavily visited sites’ (page 303). This begs the question of the impacts occurring that may not be detectable or visible to the naked eye. The book ends by pointing the way to a practical system of damage-reporting, inspection, and, if necessary, temporary closure for overused tourism sites in the absence of a full-blown monitoring programme in Antarctica. Curiously, no attempt is made at its close to draw out highlights, call for future research, or summarise key points relating to the prospects for polar tourism.

While the book has many strengths, there are also weaknesses worth consideration. In places, discussion of both polar regions proves cumbersome and inhibits the flow of ideas. Conflicting statements prove confusing, for example the different time frames given for polar tourism events, such as the resumption of overflights from Australia (page 190 says 1994 and page 197 says 1995); variations in data cited (IAATO figures (page 197) differ considerably from those offered by Bauer (page 190), and island areas on page 265 versus pages 275–276); or the lack of consensus on rates of tourism growth in Antarctica (some say it is gradual, others rapid). Will the Ten Principles for Arctic Tourism ‘be realized by ten Codes of Conduct for Tour Operators in the Arctic, and ten Codes of Conduct for Arctic Tourists’ (page 243)? Also, a surprising amount of repetition appears in the work, for example, the text on South Georgia in the final two chapters. While some serve to reinforce what has gone before, at times it proves frustrating to read.

Chapter 2 on ‘Pioneers of polar tourism and their legacy’ devotes a mere sentence to the role of ‘Antarctic Network International’ (page 30), which should read Adventure Network International. Numerous contentious points are made and some assertions are not backed up with evidence. For example, the opening text to Part I asserts with respect to polar tourism that ‘[n]o other kind of commercial tourism so strongly and consistently relies on historical traditions to sustain its business’ (page 2). This discounts virtually all of heritage tourism, which is one of the industry's strongest and fastest growing segments. One need only look at the role of the monarchy in the UK and the many related attractions that draw tourists, to see the statement needs amending. Continual reference is made to mass tourism, but this is never well defined and arguably does not yet occur in most polar regions.

Is it true that ‘[t]here are neither mechanisms for enforcement, nor resources available to implement enforcement, of regulations relating to tourism under the Antarctic Treaty’ (page 286)? This is a strong statement that needs to be substantiated.

Bertram's contribution is considerable, and highly useful data summaries are provided, but the statement that ‘the proliferation of cruise ships cannot in itself be regarded as an environmental threat’ (page 167) assumes that their environmental effects while operating in polar regions are well understood, when they are not. Furthermore, she states that ‘[n]othing is released from ships while in the Antarctic Treaty area’ (page 167). This cannot be proved and contradicts this reviewer's research findings during travel with an IAATO member cruise line. Also, Antarctic ship-borne tourism was not ‘[f]ormerly restricted to small passenger ships’ (page 167).

In places, the writing lacks rigour. Chapter 12 on ‘Antarctic tourism: what are the limits?’ asserts that the tourism industry will ensure that ‘potential environmental damage’ does not occur (page 207). How can this be?

There is an impressive array of visual material, but it varies in quality. Some photographs are excellent, others grainy; most tables are highly informative and easy to follow, for example, Table 16.2 by Tracey and Table 17.1 by Bertram and Stonehouse; several maps appear blurred and one has a colour-coded key, but appears in black and white (Fig. 6.2). It would have helped to see the many useful tables and figures listed at the outset. Similarly, a chart comparing polar tourism figures/features for all eight Arctic nations would have been useful. A chapter on the economic role of Antarctic tourism would also have been a welcome addition.

Considering that the word ‘tourism’ appears in the title, very few key academic tourism texts or journals have been consulted by the contributors. Greater precision, accuracy, and depth of discussion may have been achieved by some had more of these sources been consulted. Yet a considerable amount of insight into tourism management issues is demonstrated owing to the collective experience of the writers. However, at times, the discussion halts just when it gains momentum.

Errors of fact detract from the work's quality. Twelve nations established scientific stations throughout the Antarctic during the IGY of 1957–58, not 46 as stated on page 29. The Arctic Team Challenge (page 108) in Greenland was renamed the SIKU Extreme Arctic Challenge. Argentina, Chile, and the United Kingdom signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959, not in 1961 (page 131), which is the year it entered into force. The Environmental Protocol was signed in Madrid on 4 October 1991 and entered into force in 1998, but the date is cited as 1996 (page 165). XXI ATCM took place in 1997, not 2006 (page 299). The text should read 29th ATCM as it does in the reference. XX ATCM took place in 1996, not 2005 (page 303). XXVIII ATCM took place in 2005.

The work contains many spelling, punctuation, typographical, and referencing errors. Some are unfortunate, such as the misspelling of contributors’ surnames (Tracey is spelled Tracy, page viii; Lamers appears as Lamiers, page 216) and of those of key figures (Giles, not Gilles Kershaw, page 173; Monteath, not Monteith, page 224). Others are humorous, for example, the article by Whelan (2004) in Outside magazine should read ‘Waking the bear,’ but is cited more than once as ‘Walking the bear’ and different page ranges are given in each reference (pages 70 and 246). The Iditarod appears as Iditorad (page 9). The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators is repeatedly referred to with the final ‘a’ missing from Antarctica. Various references appear out of alphabetical order and some citations are flawed.

More seriously, data on passengers, ships, and yachts for 2005/6 presented on page 250 do not match those in Table 15.1. The role of the Grand Tour in tourism's history is poorly understood (page ix). The origin of the multiple resource management model in Figure 15.5 (page 257) is not apparent (and design facility does not equate to facility design (Box 6)), yet, this same figure appears as 17.1 (page 297) and is attributed to Snyder (2003) with a full reference provided. In any case, the systems approach to multiple resource management is not well explained, for example, who does the monitoring, and how does the model enable managers to understand tourism's cause and effect relationships? The last chapter refers to its fourth and last phase, but the model contains five (pages 297–298).

Yet, despite the aforementioned flaws, it is easy to see the merit in this book because it asks important questions. How can what is known about the environment, tourism activity, and their management best be utilised to limit the negative effects of polar tourism? It is thought-provoking. It presents and compares a range of useful management techniques to achieve this end. One is left wondering if the future for polar tourism can be steered effectively by governments or whether market forces, global economics, and an industry growing in power and influence will dictate the agenda. Given the range of stakeholders and emerging issues involved and apparent levels of self-interest in this arena, this volume on polar tourism's prospects is timely indeed.

This text will prove indispensable to students new to the study of polar tourism along with those in the academic community who take an interest in this subject, relevant policymakers, tourism practitioners, and other polar stakeholders. It is reasonably well organised, easy to follow, and enjoyable to read. The work represents quite an achievement given the meagre funding available to polar tourism researchers. The editors are to be congratulated on their vision and ability to draw together such disparate ideas, themes, and professionals in one coherent volume. The influence a work like this wields may prove difficult to measure, but give it time to be discovered, digested, and acted upon, and all the hard work put into its making will pay dividends.

A few authors highlight opportunities for relevant research that may help inform the management of polar tourism. Looking ahead, a future volume could advance understanding of the role of climate change in polar tourism and its management, the effects that modes of tourism transport are having on polar regions, and how the media affects polar travel choices (for example, might the focus on climate change stimulate or deter visits?). The editors point out that ‘tourism has arrived late in polar regions’ (page x). The extent to which these areas will benefit from the wealth of research and management experience gained, sometimes elsewhere, remains to be seen.


Enzenbacher, D.J. 1995. The management of Antarctic tourism: environmental issues, the adequacy of current regulations and policy options within the Antarctic Treaty System. Unpublished PhD thesis. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, Appendix A.Google Scholar
Hall, C.M., and Johnston, M.E. (Editors). 1995. Polar tourism: tourism in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
Stewart, E.J., Draper, D., and Johnston, M.E.. 2005. A review of tourism research in the polar regions. Arctic 58 (4): 383394.Google Scholar
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PROSPECTS FOR POLAR TOURISM. John M. Snyder and Bernard Stonehouse (Editors). 2007. Wallingford: CABI. xiv + 318p, illustrated, hard cover. ISBN 978-1-84593-247-3. £60.00.
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PROSPECTS FOR POLAR TOURISM. John M. Snyder and Bernard Stonehouse (Editors). 2007. Wallingford: CABI. xiv + 318p, illustrated, hard cover. ISBN 978-1-84593-247-3. £60.00.
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PROSPECTS FOR POLAR TOURISM. John M. Snyder and Bernard Stonehouse (Editors). 2007. Wallingford: CABI. xiv + 318p, illustrated, hard cover. ISBN 978-1-84593-247-3. £60.00.
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