After a whirlwind 20 months at the helm of IAATO, Executive Director Gina Greer talks collaboration over competition on the cusp of the Association’s 31st year.
Almost two years ago I met with IAATO’s Executive Committee (EC) to explore becoming the Executive Director of this unique organization. While I had heard previously during my own travels about the association and its members putting commercial concerns aside to work collaboratively, I was skeptical as to how it worked.
Thirty years ago, seven companies came together and formed an association whose purpose was to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica. When one pauses and considers that this association has endured for 30 years, it is remarkable; that the membership has grown tremendously while not losing focus of its mission is inspirational.
During my meeting with the EC back in February 2020, the conversation was very focused on how to manage and prepare for anticipated growth in tourism. That agenda quickly changed of course when the world was thrown into upheaval and all eyes were on addressing COVID-19.
Over the last 18 months, I have had a front seat to how the members come together. They are acutely aware of the individual responsibility that they have, not just to their own organization and guests but to each other. Perspective, expertise and lessons learned are readily shared within committees, working groups and member town halls, with the goal of evolving practices and our guidelines.
I will not say it is perfect – there are differing opinions. But what anchors us all is our mission – safe and environmentally responsible travel.
Our members’ enthusiasm and commitment has been a key factor in IAATO’s journey, but it is important to realize that our success is also due to the continued support and interaction with the other stakeholders in the Antarctic community. Scientist, NGOs, and governments, both local and national, as well as Antarctic Treaty members, share insights and challenge us on how we can continually enhance and not stagnate. That continued support makes us forge ahead, looking for new solutions and ways to leverage things like technology in our ever-evolving world.
Often these days we hear many voice their frustration when their leaders cannot come together to find common ground and progress forward. It can be disheartening but then I look to the Antarctic community, and I find inspiration.
As 2022 comes to end, our members are looking towards the future. They are considering ways to manage the visitor growth that is still anticipated, to enhance our practices to ensure that our impact continues to be either minor or transitory and to educate not only our guests but our local communities on the importance of Antarctica to the world.
I am hopeful that their commitment will continue to endure for the next 30 years and beyond, and alongside others within the Antarctic community, they will continue to be stewards of Antarctica.
About the author | Gina Greer
Previously a partner at global business advisory and consulting firm, Deloitte, Gina brings to IAATO more than 20 years of experience interpreting regulatory and business issues, identifying challenges and developing operational strategies to address them; qualities which will benefit IAATO as it continues to manage the challenges ahead.
A recent graduate of Stony Brook University, School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences where she obtained a Master of Arts in Marine Conservation and Policy, Gina is also a research associate at Gotham Whale, coordinating with organizations that maintain humpback whale fluke catalogs on the east coast of the United States to further develop understanding of migration behaviors. In addition, she volunteers at Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.