PhD graduate Daniela Cajiao has been examining what motivates tourists to travel to the White Continent as part of her IAATO-funded study.
Antarctic Fellowship recipient Daniela Cajiao has released the initial findings of her study into polar tourism motivation and learning.
Daniela, of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid was one of two PhD candidates to be awarded the first $15,000 USD IAATO COMNAP Antarctic Fellowship in 2019.
Part of her research examined how tourist experience was influenced by their motivations to visit Antarctica combined with the characteristics of their expedition. By understanding this relationship, Daniela hopes that operators enhance meaningful experiences, fostering pro-environmental outcomes such as an interest in management and policy among returning tourists.
Daniela said: “The study and its early findings give us an opportunity to reflect on how the Antarctic tourist experience could become more customized and participatory, effectively inspiring Antarctic tourists to serve as stewards and Antarctic Ambassadors for the region.”
Results, released in February, identified the majority of those surveyed as already possessing pro-environment attitudes and intentions, and demonstrated the power of educational opportunities when it comes to creating ambassadors. Daniela identified positive parallels between activities like lectures and citizen science with enhanced visitor satisfaction and learning.
The study provided new insight into travellers’ learning outcomes. The expectations and motivations of Antarctic tourists are diverse and influenced by the characteristics of their expedition. This presents an opportunity to investigate how the visitor experience can be customised and more hands-on to inspire a greater number of visitors to harness their experience back at home to serve as advocates for the region.
Four motivations for Antarctic travel were identified: experience and learning, social bonding (with family or fellow travellers), adventure in Antarctica and “trip of a lifetime”. Most survey respondents (31 per cent) said they travelled to the region to “experience and learn about wild Antarctica.” This group consisted of visitors highly interested in wildlife, landscape, and scenery with a desire to learn more about Antarctica and its environment, understanding its influence in climate change.
The findings are based on questionnaire responses from Antarctic visitors travelling on four IAATO member vessels across six expeditions between December 2019 and March 2020. 244 people responded to a pre- and post-visit survey, with half of the respondents identifying as Australian, 27% from the USA, seven per cent from Canada, five per cent from the UK and five per cent from New Zealand.
28 per cent of respondents said they valued a shared social experience while 23 per cent had a desire for adventure, considering Antarctica as an adventure destination with associated activities. 17.5 per cent said that visiting Antarctica was a life-long dream, and in some cases a promise to a loved one.
Daniela added; “The study wasn’t without its limitations nevertheless, the data retrieved is valuable and a great position to build our understanding of the motivations behind visits to Antarctica and identify practices which can enhance post-visit stewardship among guests.”
The IAATO Antarctic Fellowship is an investment in the professional development of talented early career researchers and aims to further the understanding of human presence in Antarctica.
Amanda Lynnes, IAATO Director of Environment and Science Coordination, said: “From the minute Daniela applied for the IAATO Fellowship, she has demonstrated a deep understanding of IAATO’s work and how her research could help further our mission to advocate and promote the practice of safe, environmentally responsible private-sector Antarctic travel.
“Through her research we hope to gain valuable insight into why people choose to travel to Antarctica and identify opportunities to enhance onward ambassadorship for the region when guests return home.”
Applications for IAATO’s 2022 Antarctic Fellowship are open! Find out more here.