What is IAATO?

IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.

Dear friends of Antarctica,

Since the beginning of the modern Antarctic tourism industry in 1969, the number of tourists in Antarctica has grown from a few hundred to more than 30,000 each year. Recognizing the potential environmental impacts that such growing numbers of tourism could cause, seven private tour operators conducting excursions in Antarctica joined together in 1991 to practice and promote safe and environmentally responsible travel in this remote, wild and delicate region of the world.

Currently, more than 100 Antarctica-bound outfitters are voluntary members of our organization, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Together we have established extensive procedures and guidelines that ensure appropriate, safe and environmentally sound private-sector travel to the Antarctic: regulations and restrictions on numbers of people ashore; staff-to-passenger ratios; site-specific and activity guidelines; wildlife watching; pre- and post-visit activity reporting; passenger, crew and staff briefings; previous Antarctic experience for tour staff; contingency and emergency medical evacuation plans; and more.

IAATO is an industry group that has resolved to set the highest possible tourism operating standards in its effort to protect Antarctica. This effort is unique, and the challenge to maintain environmentally responsible tourism exists to this extent in no other region of the world. Our membership comprises ship operators, land-based operators, ship agents, travel agents, one government office and travel companies that charter ships and airplanes from existing operators.

Most of our members also operate expeditions to environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic and the Amazon, as well as educational excursions to all seven continents. The experience and awareness these tour operators have gained through their membership in IAATO has allowed the spirit of environmentally safe and responsible travel to extend to nearly every remote region of the world.

IAATO meets at least once a year, during which policies, procedures, challenges and tasks are agreed to by at least a two-thirds majority vote. The Executive, Finance, Membership, Marine, Bylaws, and Field Operations Committees actively participate throughout the year when decisions are at hand. When these decisions are made or changes occur, an extensive and effective e-mail network allows all of our members to be updated quickly. IAATO provides an unparalleled service to all of its members, and we are proud of our achievements.

Working in close cooperation with governments and scientific foundations, IAATO's capable representatives attend all relevant Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and other pertinent international conferences throughout each year.

Antarctica represents a more profound manifestation of international peace than any other place in the world - managed in the past half-century through the Antarctic Treaty's unprecedented global cooperation of nearly 50 countries, and formally designated a "natural reserve dedicated to peace and science." IAATO has set the global precedent of best practice self-regulation in this extraordinary region. Our agreed best practices demonstrate that first-hand, environmentally responsible tourism is possible in remote and fragile wilderness areas. Our focus on protection, management and education promotes a greater worldwide understanding and protection of the Antarctic - leaving it as pristine and as majestic for future generations as it is today.

Please join us on one or more of our remarkable journeys, and help to preserve one of the finest places on earth... Antarctica.


Dr Terry Shaller
Acting Executive Director