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Antarctic Tourism - A Frontier for Wilderness Management by mrnizul


									                              ANTARCTIC TOURISM
                              A Fr-ontiev for Wilderness Management
                                             BY GORDON CESSFORD

[Editor’s Note: Antarctica is the largest contiguous area of wilderness on Earth. As inhospitable to humans as it may be
most of the time, the Antarctic is nonetheless a vital and valuable area. The UW is pleased to feature five articles on
Antarctica in this issue, more exposure to one subject in one issue than we have given previously. Special thanks go to
the efforts of UWguest editors Gordon Cessford and Paul Dingwall of the Department of Conservation, New Zealand,
for coordinating a comprehensive, up-to-date perspective on the great southern wilderness.
                                                                     -Vance G. Martin, Executive Editor (International)]

Abstract: Antarctic tourism has grown rapidly in recent years, bringing an influx of new visitors to add to the traditional
scientific occupants of the continent. To date, tourism impacts on the wilderness environment have been relatively
benign, and tourists accept that their visits may be subject to limitations. But the prospect of continued growth and
diversity of activities brings some concerns about the adequacy of existing rules for managing tourists and calls for
continued surveillance and research.

       GOOD OR BAD IS NOT MUCH HELP It is internation-
       ally accepted as a legitimate actlvlty, Antarctic tourist
numbers are growing, and recently even a comprehensive Ant-
arctic tourism guidebook has been published (Rubin 1996).
All the signs show that Antarctic tourism is here to stay. Now
the important discussion must focus on how tourism can be
encouraged to operate in ways that minimize disturbance and
further enhance the wilderness and scientific valu& already
attributed to Antarctica. This may require determining how
tourism activities take place on-site, promotmg better intersc-
tions between tourism and the operation of scientific programs
and stations, and identifying ways to enhance the experiences
of tourists so they become stronger advocates for Antarctic con-
semation and science after their return home. To gain a per-
spective on how this could occur, it is helpful first to understand
the current features of Antarctic tourism and tourists.               Do tour vessels at heavily visited historic sites on the Antarctic Peninsula represent
      A visit to Antarctica is a unique and Lvonderful experi-        overcrowding? Photo by Antarctica NZ.
ence. Understanding Antarctica will tell us much more about
the global processes affecting the world environment and our
place in it, and a special regime of international cooperation is     of mlllions of tourists travel internationally each year, num-
required to manage our interactions with Antarctica-it is not         bers in Antarctica are now reaching 10,000 in the four-month
“owned” by anyone. Following is an Antarctic tourist’s response,      summer season (see Figure 1). This may seem a small number
when asked the main things she would tell other people about          for a wilderness continent larger than the United States and
 her Antarctic experience. It captures some of the key issues         Mexico combined (14 million square kilometers), but visits
about Antarctica as a growing tourism destination and as a place      are focused on only a few accessible natural and historic fea-
valued by humans: “The vastness and peace. The importance             tures. Most are in the less than 0.5% of the surface area (56,000
 of the Antarctic in determining climate, weather, and oceanic        square kilometers), which is free of permanent ice and is an
 features in the rest of the world. The necessity of international    area equivalent in size to Denmark, Sri Lanka, or West Vir-
 planning and cooperation to protect this area.”                      glnia. But the largest single ice-free area (the Dry. Valleys) is
                                                                      only 2,500 square kilometers, approximately the same size as
The Context for Antarctic Tourism                                     Yosemite National Park. The remaining ice-free areas are mainly
Although Antarctic tourism is growing rapidly, it is only a tiny      mountaintops and coastal outcrops speckled widely over the
fraction of the international tourism industry. While hundreds        vast Antarctic continent. Antarctica’s sparse terrestrial life is

                                                                 /A!T’ERffATttOffAL JOURNAL OFW/.DERNESSVolume                                 3, Number 3     7
                                                                      h’ hl y concentrated
                                                                        ig                        Arenas (Chile) or Ushuaia (Argentina) in
                                                                      on these rocky “is-         vessels ranging from comfortable cruise
                                                                      lands” in a “sea” of ice,   ships carrying 400 or more passengers,
                                                                      particularly in the         to expedition-style yachts carrying fewer
                                                                      coastal areas close to      than 10. Most vessels between these ex-
                                                                      the life support pro-       tremes are chartered craft, especially a
                                                                      vided by the sea. The       variety of ice-strengthened Russian re-
                                                                      direct human influ-         search vessels and icebreakers, which
                                                                      ences that occur in         have been converted for tourism use and
                                                                      Antarctica are also         carry 30 to 100 passengers. The availabil-
                                                                      highly concentrated in      ity of these vessels from the early 1990s
                                                                      the more accessible of      and the increasing use of shipborne heli-
                                                                      these ice-free coastal      copters has significantly increased the
                                                                      areas, including past       volume and scope of seaborne tourism
                                                                      and present scientific      options as well as the range of sites able
                                                                      stations and current        to be reached. Due to ease of accessibil-
                                                                      tourism activities. So      ity and the concentration of attractions
                                                                      while the continent is      on the peninsula, most future growth in
                                                                      vast and the human          all types of Antarctic tourism is likely to
                                                                      numbers low, the in-        occur here.
                                                                      teraction of people               Smaller numbers of vessels travel
                                                                      and environment oc-         from New Zealand and Australia to des-
                                                                      curs largely in the very    tinations mainly in the Ross Sea region,
                                                                      limited ecosystems          usually complemented by visits to the
                                                                      most important for the      New Zealand and Australian Subantarc-
                                                                      marginal life that ex-      tic islands (recently nominated for World
      Seabarne tourists view an iceberg. Photo by Paul R. Dingwoll.
                                                                      ists. In this situation,    Heritage status). This, however, involves
                                                                      the presence and be-        about 10 days voyaging across the noto-
                                                                      havior of even rela-        riously stormy Southern Ocean, com-
                                                                      tively small numbers        pared with 3 to 5 days to the peninsula.
           Figure l-Growth in Antarctic Tourism                       of people take on           The longer seatime raises travel costs,
                                                                      added significance.         reduces the proportion of time spent
                                                                                                  ashore, is less comfortable for passengers,
                                                                      The Pattern of              and limits the types of vessels that may
                     Growth in Antarctic                              Antarctic Tourism           safely visit (see Figure 2). In addition,
                     Tourism (1957-1996)                              Human activity in           there is often uncertainty about reaching
                                                                      Antarctica is over-         some sites when ice conditions are unfa-
                                                                      whelmingly concen-          vorable. It is unlikely that seaborne tour-
                                                                      trated on the Antarctic     ism to the Ross Sea will grow substantially
                                                                      Peninsula (see p. 23 of     in the next few years unless more voy-
                                                                      Dingwall article in this    ages using Russian vessels become avail-
         r 12000
         02                                                           issue for map), which       able.
         2 10000                                                      contains almost half of           Aircraft also travel from South Amer-
                                                                      the 40 or so scientific     ica, usually carrying small numbers of
          z     8000
                                                                      stations in Antarctica,     adventure-oriented tourists to inland sites
         ‘E:    6000                                                  and over 90% of tour-       for climbing, skiing, and wilderness ex-
          g                                                           ism activity (see Figure    peditions Other opportunities for air-
         E-c    4000                                                  2). In essence, Antarc-     borne access are currently being
                2000                                                  tic tourism consists of     investigated elsewhere in the Antarctic,
                                                                      ship visits to the Ant-     including trials of flights from South Af-
                                                                      arctic Peninsula, com-      rica (IAATO 1997). Antarctic sightseeing
                                                                      bining scenic cruising      overflights from New Zealand were also
                                                                      with brief visits ashore    proving popular before ceasing after a
                                                                      to view. unique wild-       tragic crash in 1979. These have resumed
                                                                      life and historic sites,    recently from Australia and are again
                                                                      Most Antarctic tourists     proving popular. Even when viewed from
                                                                      voyage from Punta           great height and at considerable expense,

8   /fVERAfAl/ON,4L JOII;pNAL OFW/LDERMSSVohme 3, Number 3
Antarctica is a highly attractive tourist des-    Figure 2-Seaborne Tourist Increases in Antarctica and 5-Year
tination, reflecting the commonly stated                     Forecast for Continued Rise in Numbers
desire of people to visit it someday.

The Impacts of Antarctic Tourism
Any wilderness manager confronted with
tourist demand for visiting rare and
highly specific natural and historic fea-
tures would have difficulty coping with
a series of sites spread widely over a vast
continent. Adding complexity is the lack
of on-site management presence, the com-
mercial pressures driving tour providers,
and the lack of a clear mandate to make
binding decisions. For those concerned
about the continued viability of Antarctic
ecosystems and the integrity of the many
historic sites, the prospect of growing tour-
ism numbers in these circumstances is
not a welcome one. Tourists will inevita-
bly have impacts, and these may be par-
ticularly acute because tourists
specifically seek the most valued natural
and historic features: People may try and
get “just a little bit closer” for their pen-
guin photograph; want to pick up that
historic hut item for a closer look; sou-        historic values. In the vicinity of existing    while ashore. This provides the control
venir ‘yust a few” wind-sculptured stones;       stations, it is unlikely that environmen-       required to ensure that both the tourists
or walk “just a little” way into that spe-       tal impacts from tourist activity would be      and the managers can obtain the benefits
cially protected area and maybe unknow-          more significant than those associated          of station visits, without seriously com-
ingly trample unnoticed lichens, mosses,         with the station.                               promising station operations. This out-
soils, or rock features.                              The most pervasive impact from             come can be achieved for station visits
     However, the localized impacts of           tourism has actually been on the opera-         because of the on-site presence of man-
tourism on features at Antarctic sites           tion of the stations themselves. Tourists       agement authority, and its acceptance by
should be seen in the wider context of           display a particular interest in station vis-   both tourists and tour providers. Achiev-
natural environmental fluctuations, glo-         its, which are usually seen as an integral      ing the same outcome at those sites where
bal and regional human activities, and the       part of the Antarctic experience. In posi-      no direct management control by official
ongoing localized effects of station op-         tive terms, this protides welcome changes       authorities is possible represents the main
erations and science programs. Although          in station routines, allows more direct ad-     challenge for Antarctic tourism manage-
tourists greatly outnumber scientists,           vocacy of the research being done to an         ment. But how does one stop tourists
Headland (1994) compared the relative            interested audience, provides opportuni-        from going closer to get that penguin
tourist and nontourist “presence-days” in        tics for generating re\‘enue from postal        photograph when there is nobody there
Antarctic environments (i.e., how many           and souvenir sewices, and has enabled           to inform them?
people were present, what they were do-          greater logistical cooperation between
ing, and for how long), and estimated that       station and tour operations. In some            Managing Antarctic
less than 1% of direct human effects in          cases, tour vessels have provided trans-        Tourism Impacts
Antarctica could be attributed to tourists.      portation of staff and materials for man-       Part of the answer to this question lies
This does not mean that tourism impacts          agement and research purposes.                  with the tourists themselves. A high de-
should be ignored, as they add to the                 As the number of tourist visits has        gree of Antarctic interest and motivation
cumulative effects of stations and science       increased, however, the physical distur-        is suggested by their choice of an Antarc-
programs (see Dalzeill and De Poorter            bance of station operations and scientific      tic trip in the first place. They are mak-
article in this issue), but shows that there     programs has become particularly acute          ing an expensive choice compared with
should be a focus on station operations          at stations on the Antarctic Peninsula.         other tourism options, and in most cases
when prioritizing actions to reduce hu-          Some stations now impose limits on vis-         they are accepting the probability of ex-
man impacts. Tourist impacts should be           NS allowed, or at least require consider-       periencing considerable discomfort at sea
subject to exclusive focus only where they       able advance notice and visitor adherence       for relatively short visits ashore. Coming
particularly threaten the natural and/or         to strictly enforced codes of conduct           from the more affluent and better educated

                                                                    /NTERN..T/OA44L JOIZNAL OfW/LDERtVESSVo~ume 3, Number 3                    9
                                                                                                                   specific and localized tasks for research
                                                                                                                   and monitoring related to impact assess-
                                                                                                                   ment and site management. To achieve
                                                                                                                   the best management of sites, more un-
                                                                                                                   derstanding of specific human-environ-
                                                                                                                   ment interactions is required. For
                                                                                                                   example, how do different wildlife spe-
                                                                                                                   cies perceive the repeated presence of hu-
                                                                                                                   mans, and what are the long-term
                                                                                                                   consequences of their short-term behav-
                                                                                                                   ioral responses? While recognizing that
                                                                                                                   there is much to learn, and acknowledg-
                                                                                                                   ing the vulnerability of the values involved,
                                                                                                                   there is still a need to provisionally estab-
                                                                                                                   lish some working guidelines.
                                                                                                                        Substantial progress has been made
                                                                                                                   toward achieving site-management
                                                                                                                   guidelines. On the one hand, nations
                                                                                                                   administering activities in Antarctica un-
                                                                                                                   der the Antarctic Treaty have adopted the
                                                                                                                   Madrid Protocol, which provides a sys-
A tourist interacts with emperor penguins. Photo by Anfurctice NZ.                                                 tem under international law for environ-
                                                                                                                   mental management of all human
                                                                                                                   activities in Antarctica (see p. 22 of
            sectors of society (predominantly from                   hancing the already extensive inter-          Dingwall article in this issue). While not
            Europe and North America), generally                     pretation and information opportunities       distinguishing between different types of
            being from older age groups, and mostly                  associated with \%its. In general, it ap-     human activity, the Protocol does pro-
            having professional and managerial back-                 pears that m many ways Antarctic tour-        vide a basis for treaty nations to develop
            grounds, these tourists have high expec-                 ists are alread). particularly receptive to   their own management policies specific
            tations of qualit), \,lsit-cspericnces,                  the need for some regulation of visits        to Antarctic tourism. For example, New
            fcnturing spectacular scenery, fascinating               ashore, to thf t>‘pes of regulations man-     Zealand recently passed domestic legis-
            \viltliifc, and significant heritage in a                agers would wrsh to apply, and to the         lation providing for regulations and
            \vlltlcrness contest.                                    types of conser\,ation and environmen-        guidelines governing visits to the Ross
                                                                                                                   Sea region (anon 1997). In this situation,
                                                                                                                   New Zealand has extended its ability to
How cl0 you stop tourists from going closer to get                                                                 promote these regulations by requiring
                                                                                                                   that an official government representa-
that penguin photograph when there is nobody there                                                                 tive accompanies each visiting ship.
                                                                                                                   While this requirement can be legally
to inform them?                                                                                                    enforced in New Zealand’s Subantarctic
                                                                                                                   island territories, in the international
                                                                                                                   realm of Antarctica it can only be
                  The LCM. studies maclc of Antarctic                tal messages managers may wish to con-        achieved through mutual agreement be-
            and Subantarctic tourists have indicated                 vey. In essence, there do not appear to be    tween authorities and operators. To date
            that thcsc high expectations are being                   any significant “customer-demand” pres-       this arrangement has worked well, de-
            achic\,cd. Furthermore, research con-                    sures on tour operators to undertake their    spite the costs involved for both parties.
            ducted by Cessford and Dingwall (19%)                    tours in \va)‘s that might seriously com-     The managers establish some oversight
            found that there M’as a high degree of                   promise Antarctic wilderness values or        of visits, while the operators achieve a
            tourist acceptance of the regulations im-                ecological integrity.                         greater measure of official endorsement,
            posed for controlling visits ashore and                       Because almost all Antarctic tourism     and sometimes the added interpretive
            na real clcmancl for de\,elopment of any                 visits are on self-contained ships, there     services of an experienced professional.
            visit-relntecl facilities Apart from some                is no need for any onshore facilities. This         On the other hand, the International
            intewt in provision of toilet options                    removes the main source of most pos-          Association of Antarctic Tour Operators
            Lvhite onshore, a need that all public                   sible Impacts from human activity at sites,    (IAATO), which includes almost all Ant-
            5pact‘ and wltlcrness managers woulcl                    and places the focus more specifically on     arctic tour operations, has also devel-
            rccognlx, the only notable tlcvelopmen-                  simply mtnlmlzing the effects of the brief    oped its own bylaws, codes of conduct,
            tat prefercnccs cxprcsscd were for en-                   site-visits. In turn, this requires more       and visitation guidelines. Thus, in most

  10      /N7iFRNAVO~dL JO.!RNdL OFW/LDERNESSVohe 3, Number 3
cases, visits to Antarctic sites will be con-   Conclusion                                      toring. and consensus are still required in
trolled by groups under the supervision         Clearly, a growing consensus between            order to continue improving our under-
of experienced guides WIJO are applying         tourism and management interests, com-          standings of the impacts and, if necessary
established visit protocols. This enables       bined with the willingness of most tour-        to further refine these working rules. IJW
visitors to enjoy an informative, inter-        ists to accept environmental controls on
esting, and safe experience, while avoid-       their visits, is an encouraging basis for       GORDON CESSFORD is a recreation and tour-
ing sensitive areas or inappropriate                                                            ism researcher with the Department of Con-
                                                achieving an en\ironmentally sustainable
                                                                                                servation in Wellington, New Zealand. He
behaviors. These voluntary codes and            tourism industry in Antarctica. Follows-
                                                                                                has researched Antarctic and Subantarctic
guidelines also extend beyond the nor-          ing the precautionary approach repre-           shipborne tourists and has spent time in both
mal competitive behaviors of business,          sented by the Madrid Protocol and               areas. He can be reached at the Depart-
going as far as including cooperation           MAT0 initiatives, the working rules rep-        ment of Conservation, Science and Research
between different tour operations to            resented by the developing guidelines can       Division, PO. Box 1 O-420, Wellington, New
minimize visit congestion at particularly       continue to be applied as the best prac-        Zealand. Telephone: 64-4-471-0726; fax:
popular sites.                                  tices available. But ongoing research, moni-    64-4-471-3279; e-mail: Gcessford@doc.-

Anon, 1997. Guidelines and procedures for       Headland, R. K. 1994. Historical develop-          sociation of Antarctica Tour Operators).
  visitors to the Ross Sea region. Ministry        ment of Antarctic tourism. Annals of Tour-      Antarctic Treaty: XXI Consultative Meet-
  of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington,        ism Research, vol. 21(2):269-280. (This         ing, May 1997, Christchurch, New
   New Zealand.                                    volume was a special issue on Antarctic         Zealand.
Cessford. G. R., and P. R. Dingwall. 1996.         tourism, including several useful papers.)   Rubin, J. 1996. Antarctica: lone/y Planet
  Tourist visitors and their experiences at     IAATO, 1997. Overview of Antarctic tour-           Travel Survival Kit. Lonely Planet Publi-
   New Zealand subantarctic islands. Sci-          ism activities: a summary of 1996-l 998         cations, Melbourne, Australia.
   ence and Research Series No 96. Science         and five year projection 1997-2002.
   and Research Division, Department of            Information Paper 75 (XXI ATCM/IP75),
   Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.          submitted by IAATO (International As-

                                                                  /AKt!%VA?7OAlAL JO#?/VAL Of LY/LDERNESSVo)ume 3, Number                   3   11

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