Six provisional operators and two Associates have been welcomed into the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) at the responsible tourism organisation’s second online annual meeting.
Alegria Marineros, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Swan Hellenic and Vantage Delux World Travel have been granted Provisional Operator status bringing the total IAATO membership to 109.
The new provisional operators were voted in by the IAATO membership during the three-day virtual annual meeting held from May 11 to 13. IAATO’s new Associatiate Navijets Agents and non-profit Associate, Falklands Conservation, were approved earlier this year by digital vote.
Each year at IAATO’s annual meeting – normally held in late April/early May – members gather to have open discussions on safety, environmental protection and self-management. Decision-making is supported by recommendations developed throughout the year by IAATO’s many dedicated committees and working groups. This concludes with the voting in of new policies on best practice which support the Association’s mission.
Due to the continued impacts of COVID-19 on international travel, the 2021 annual meeting was hosted via video conference, allowing members from across the globe to connect and discuss various aspects of IAATO business, included the voting-in of new members, committee chairs and enhanced guidelines for safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robyn Woodhead, Incoming Chair of IAATO’s Executive Committee, said: “As well as Antarctica, many IAATO members also operate expeditions to other environmentally sensitive areas, as well as educational excursions to all seven continents. The experience and awareness these tour operators have gained through their IAATO membership has allowed the spirit of environmentally safe and responsible travel to extend to nearly every remote region of the world.
“We’re delighted to welcome our new members into the organization.”
There are two categories of IAATO membership: Operators and Associates. Operators (and Provisional Operators) are companies that operate directly in Antarctica and organize their own travel programmes, while Associates are tour operators, travel agents or other companies that book their customers into Operator member’s Antarctic programmes. Associates may also be companies or individuals interested in supporting Antarctic tourism and IAATO objectives. These include port agents/ship agencies, government tourism bureaus/tourist boards, expedition management service providers, conservation organizations and product/service providers.
As a condition of membership, all new Provisional Operators are required to carry an IAATO observer on board to witness their operations in the field. Observations not only provide a forum for feedback, but offer a further opportunity for the membership to make sure that IAATO’s robust operational guidelines are upheld in practice.
Since its inception in 1991, IAATO has taken a proactive role in managing pressure on the Antarctic environment, working within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System to help visitors have an enriching experience, whilst having no more than a minor or transitory impact on the region. The annual launch of the IAATO Ship Scheduler – a tool which restricts the time, number of passengers and daily visits allowed to the most popular sites on the Antarctic Peninsula – is a key part of responsible visitor management.
Gina Greer, IAATO Executive Director said: “I’d like to thank our members from across the globe who joined us for our online annual meeting. Their active engagement not just over these three days, but at Town Halls and other IAATO meetings over the course of the year demonstrates their commitment to Antarctica and ensures the furtherance of IAATO’s mission.”
The newest affiliates bring IAATO’s membership to 42 operators, 14 provisional operators, 48 associate members and five non-profit Associates members.