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News22 September 2019, 0900 UTC

Polar Expedition Leaders Gather for Responsible Tourism Conference

AECO, Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, IAATO, microplastic, polar field staff, polar field staff conference, polar guides, Responsible Travel

Responsible field leadership on the agenda at third joint conference of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators

They may be literally poles apart, but more than 80 Antarctic and Arctic expedition guides will gather together later this month for a joint conference on responsible polar tourism.

The conference, held in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, US from September 22 to 25, is the third bi-annual joint conference of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO). This year’s theme focuses on responsible field leadership.

The two-and-a-half-day conference program gathers guides, expedition leaders and operations managers working for IAATO and AECO with the aim of sharing learning and knowledge to support the two associations’ joint mission of promoting safe and environmentally responsible travel to the polar regions.

The packed program will shape discussions on embodying both company and AECO and IAATO ethos while in the field and upholding the reputation of operators as responsible tourism providers. Delegates can expect industry updates, presentations on the UN Clean Seas initiative, Antarctic Ambassadorship and citizen science as well as a look at the tourist of tomorrow, with particular focus on guest expectations, cultural sensitivity and the role of marketing and communication.

This is an important event in the IAATO and AECO calendar as it is for an opportunity to have a wealth of polar guiding knowledge and expertise in one room so that everyone can benefit from shared learning,” said Susan Adie, head of IAATO’s Field Operations Committee.

“Field staff discuss issues they face in the field, projects that can advance our shared mission of safe and environmentally responsible polar travel.

“It’s also obviously a chance to share best practice from past initiatives in previous Arctic and Antarctic seasons, from beach clean-ups in Svalbard to citizen science projects around the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic islands, such as measuring krill aggregation or analyzing water samples from the southern ocean for signs of microplastic.”

Field staff development is a priority for the two polar travel associations responsible for the conference.

“Field staff are important decision-makers in our industry. Our goal is to educate and empower the guides and expedition leaders that are out the field every day to ensure that all activities are carried out in a considerate and responsible manner,” said Frigg Jørgensen, executive director for AECO.

IAATO and AECO are international member organizations dedicated to advocating and promoting safe, environmentally responsible and considerate private sector Antarctic and Arctic travel, respectively. IAATO and AECO members represent the majority of tourism operations in the Antarctic and Arctic.

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