The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has held a COVID-19 Town Hall meeting for its members to discuss the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The meeting, held on July 3 via video conference, gathered responsible tour operators from within IAATO’s membership to discuss a COVID-19 operational approach and the work that is being undertaken in collaboration with the Antarctic gateway’s for the upcoming Antarctic season.
One of IAATO’s strengths is the willingness of its members to set any competitive interest aside to come together to act for Antarctica by sharing best practice for safe and responsible operations. The meeting opened with an introduction to the IAATO COVID-19 Steering Group, and a discussion on the challenges the industry is facing as it approaches the 2020/21 Antarctic season. The Steering Group then spoke about the future product of the work being done, the IAATO Guidance for COVID-19 Operations, which will provide the Operators tools to assess risks and challenges within their own companies, as well as their mitigation measures. IAATO operators then shared their own in-company best practice.
IAATO and its members are moving forward with preparations for the forthcoming season, all the time seeking out and monitoring advice from experts. The Association has been in close discussions with stakeholders, and the local and national governments since the crisis started. Attendees were updated on the status of each Antarctic Gateway and the individual concerns of their associated governments.
As well as observing the latest expert advice regarding post-pandemic protocols, at the heart of all discussions about future operations are the safety of all seaborne and deep-field visitors, field staff and crew, and the protection of Antarctic wildlife and the environment.
There is still much work ahead as IAATO’s membership develop procedures as expeditiously as possible, but IAATO has proven success in using the vast experience and strength of its membership to find solutions.
The COVID-19 Town Hall was the latest in a series of positive steps for the organization to strengthen its commitment to visitor safety in the Antarctic.