2012 Press Releases

The Impact of Climate Change on the Antarctic Environment: 
IAATO Introduces New Slide Presentation for Use on Ships and by its "Antarctic Ambassadors"

October 30, Providence, RI, USA. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) today announced the availability of a new PowerPoint presentation designed to help the traveler understand how climate change is affecting the Antarctic environment.

While the primary use will be IAATO Members' shipboard lecturers showing the presentation to Antarctica-bound passengers, it is also available to "Antarctic Ambassadors" – anyone interested in spreading the word on the connection between human-induced global carbon dioxide levels and the state of Antarctica's climate. The slide presentation, which has been reviewed by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and incorporates the latest research on the subject, details the complexities of the changing environment. The presentation can be downloaded from the IAATO website.

download full release

IAATO Supportive of Tourism Issues Decided at 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting held in Hobart, Australia

July 10, 2012, Providence, RI, USA. Safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic featured prominently in the official press communiqué issued at the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM XXXV), which concluded June 20 in Hobart, Australia. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP XV).

The two-page communiqué – which can be read in its entirety on the host country's ATCM XXXV website – summarizes the accomplishments resulting from the annual gathering of Treaty Parties to establish policy and other decisions relating to the management of Antarctica. Tourism was just one of many topics deliberated at the meeting, which also included discussions of climate change, scientific research on non-native species, clean-up and inspections at national program research facilities, and a multi-year strategic work plan.

Steve Wellmeier, Administrative Director of IAATO, noted that the communiqué cites the adoption of checklists for assessing land-based and yachting expeditions as well as for supporting inspections of tourist activities ashore. "As an invited expert to ATCM, IAATO had the opportunity to contribute to the development of these checklists, based on the practical experience and expertise of our operators. In general, we look at these as positive steps largely designed to assist the Treaty Parties in assessing the suitability of operators for whom they are responsible for authorizing visits to Antarctica."

download full release

IAATO Members Approve Punta Arenas, Chile as Location for 2013 Annual Meeting

June 27, 2012, Providence, RI, USA. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) today announced that Punta Arenas, Chile would be the site of its 24th IAATO Annual Meeting. The meeting is scheduled for April 22-24, 2013.

In making the announcement, IAATO Administrative Director Steve Wellmeier noted the association's interest in highlighting the international scope of the organization, with its 111 member companies and organizations located around the world. Punta Arenas is also an important gateway to Antarctica for tourists traveling to the continent by air and ship.

IAATO Members were invited by Counsellor Camilo Sanhueza, Director of the Chilean Foreign Ministry's Antarctic Division, on behalf of the Chilean government, to consider Punta Arenas as a possible meeting venue at the IAATO Annual Meeting in Providence, held earlier this year. It is the Members who vote to select the location of future meetings.

download full release

IAATO Presents its Annual Report on Activities, Tourism Statistics at the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Hobart, Australia

June 14, 2012, Hobart, Australia. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM XXXV) this week that tourism is expected to increase during the 2012-13 season, with an estimated 34,950 Antarctic passengers overall to be carried by IAATO operators. This is still well below the 46,265 carried during the 2007-08 Antarctic season.

The information was contained in one of several Information Papers on tourism activities presented at ATCM, which began Monday, June 11 and runs through Wednesday, June 20 in Hobart, Australia.

The IAATO papers provide the Treaty Parties with background information and statistics on the tourism activities of its members during the past year, and are designed to inform the meeting discussions and the decision-making process at the annual gathering of governmental representatives, observers and experts. IAATO participates at ATCM as an invited Expert. The papers are now available on the IAATO website, and include...

download full release

IAATO Announces Results of 23rd Annual Meeting and Antarctic Tourism Statistics for 2011-12 Season

May 18, 2012, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. An expanded Executive Committee and reorganized Secretariat, new rules of procedure for compliance and dispute resolution issues, and a Marine Committee Safety Advisory were just some of the actions and decisions adopted by Members at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), held here earlier this month.

IAATO also released its final tourism statistics for the 2011-12 season, which concluded in early April. The total number of tourists to the region traveling with IAATO operators was 26,519, a decrease of 22 percent from last year's total of 33,824.

More than 100 members, invited guests and IAATO staff from 15 different countries participated in this year's meeting, held May 1-3. The busy three-day agenda included approval by Members of many measures relevant to IAATO's mission to advocate and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.

download full release

IAATO Comments on Recent Yacht-Related Incidents in Antarctic Waters

April 18, 2012, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Recent incidents and sightings involving yachts in Antarctic waters have generated considerable interest and concern among the members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).

The incidents and reports – some of which have been covered by the media – involve commercial and private yachts not associated in any way with IAATO, according to Administrative Director Steve Wellmeier. Some of the incidents include:

  • The sinking of the Brazilian motor yacht Mar Sem Fim April 7 in Maxwell Bay, South Shetland Islands. The four Brazilian passengers and crew were rescued unharmed by the Chilean Navy and transported by air from the nearby Presidente Eduardo Frei airstrip to Punta Arenas, Chile. The suspected cause of the sinking was compression of ice following severe weather the day earlier.
  • The detention and subsequent release of the yacht Nilaya – operated by self-proclaimed "wild viking" Jarle Andhoy – by Chilean authorities in Puerto Williams, Chile, following its arrival from the Ross Sea via the Antarctic Peninsula. Andhoy is reportedly wanted by the New Zealand authorities for sailing to Antarctica on two occasions without permits, insurance or contingency plans. Last year, Andhoy's yacht Berserk sank in McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea with the loss of three crewmembers. He has had previous run-ins with the governments of Norway, Finland, Russia and Canada.

"We are pleased to learn that the passengers and crew of these vessels are safe following their most recent Antarctic travels. Nevertheless, serious questions remain about the preparedness and experience of some of these operators, and whether proper permits were secured from their respective national authorities for travel to Antarctica," Wellmeier said.

download full release

IAATO Hires New Environmental Operations Assistant: Claudia Holgate

March 7, 2012, Providence, RI. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) today announced the appointment of Claudia Holgate to the part-time position of Environmental Operations Assistant.

"We welcome Claudia to the IAATO team, and the entire organization looks forward to benefiting from her considerable experience and background skills in furthering the Association's core mission: to promote safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic," noted Administrative Director Steve Wellmeier.

Claudia Holgate has worked in the environmental field for 15 years, including assignments as a program manager on an international water project for the United Nations and Greening the World Summit on Sustainable Development. She also has experience working at all levels of government and ten years running an independent environmental consultancy. She spent three years in academia lecturing on climatology and environmental management at Monash University, where she is still an Adjunct Research Associate in the School of Geosciences. Claudia has a deep attachment to the Antarctic and has been working on expedition cruise ships, primarily in the Polar Regions, for the past five years.

download full release 

IAATO reminds travel agents and tour operators with Japan-based clients about Antarctic travel requirements from Japanese Ministry of the Environment

February 21, Providence, RI. In an effort to assist travel agents and tour operators with Antarctica travel planning for their Japanese clients and foreign residents of Japan, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) is making new information available from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

"Japanese nationals, as well as citizens of other countries who live in Japan, intending to visit Antarctica are required to notify the Ministry of the Environment prior to their trip," according to Steve Wellmeier, executive director of IAATO. "While this isn't a new requirement and is usually handled efficiently by the tour operator, it is sometimes overlooked by Japanese citizens traveling with non-Japanese companies, expatriates residing in Japan, or by travel agents who aren't aware of the regulation."

Wellmeier added that no special permit is typically required, only that the traveler, their travel agent or tour operator notifies the Ministry by email with relevant information.

download full release

IAATO Continues its Educational Campaign for Antarctica-bound Yachts


February 21, Providence, RI. Following a good response to its public awareness campaign focusing on yacht operators, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has continued its efforts during the current 2011-12 season to educate those bound for Antarctica aboard sailing or motor vessels.

The ongoing campaign consists of updated free information for yacht operators on the IAATO website, a revised "Sailing to Antarctica?" multi-language pamphlet, and posters displayed in popular yacht clubs and port authorities in southern Argentina and Chile, the most common launching points for yacht expeditions to Antarctica. Both the pamphlets and the posters – in English, French and Spanish – are available in electronic PDF format for downloading from the IAATO website.

"Our members – including a number of veteran Antarctic yacht operators – have come together over the years to initiate and put into practice operational standards that promote safety and mitigate potential environmental impacts," noted IAATO Executive Director Steve Wellmeier. "The goal for the outreach campaign is simple: to share these best practices with non-IAATO yacht owners – both private and charter operators – so that they understand the responsibilities and commitment necessary to protect themselves and to preserve the unspoiled Antarctic environment."

download full release