Professor David Fennell
March 10, 2010
Ecotourism has coexisted with humans for some time (for example, safari tours in Africa have existed for decades), however, this concept has recently become a new phenomenon (Fennell, Lecture IX-Ecotourism). In the last couple decades, there has been tourism development in many places, which has lead to environmental deterioration. People have realized the damage they have done to the environment and have turned to other forms of tourism, such as ecotourism. Ecotourism is a responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people (What is Ecotourism?). People who partake in ecotourism activities need to have minimal impact on the environment, awareness of the environment and provide economic benefits for local people (What is Ecotourism?). In the case of Antarctica, it is a remote wilderness region, with an abundance of wildlife that has attracted ecotourism. Ecotourism has brought positive and negative impacts upon this region. Antarctica is the largest remaining wilderness on earth, with a sheet of ice covering the majority of the land. There are no humans living there permanently, but scientists visit it each summer at research stations (Fennell, 2008, p.222). Due to its unique location and its international significance, no one nation has power over any part of Antarctica (Fennell, 2008, p.222). The Antarctic Treaty System of 1959, which provides for the conservation, research and management of Antarctica’s resources (Fennell, 2008, p.222). Due to the beauty of the land, Antarctica has been exposed to the tourism market. Tourism in Antarctica is defined as “all existing human activities other than those directly involved in scientific research and the normal operations of government bases. (Hall, C.M., & McArthur, S, 1993, p.117)” since Antarctica is fragile and unique, it is important that all tourism to Antarctica be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner (Hall, C.M., & McArthur, S, 1993, p.117). Since the Antarctic Treaty grants everyone freedom of access to Antarctica, a barrier cannot be built to keep tourists or scientist out (Maher, P.T., Steel, G., & McIntosh, A, p.204), so the concept of ecotourism was introduced into Antarctica for responsible and sustainable tourism. It has been seen that travel and tourism is the world’s largest industry; providing jobs, lots of revenue, and transportation of people. Tourism in Antarctica has traditionally been described to include: private yacht visits, continental overflights, visits by media, government politicians, etc (Maher, P.T., Steel, G., & McIntosh, A, p.204). However, Antarctica’s tourism is not a recent occurrence: 130,000 tourists have visited since 1965, but it is small in scale when compared to global tourism (Maher, P.T., Steel, G., & McIntosh, A, p.204). Recently, in the last decade, Antarctica has seen an increase in the amount of tourists visiting the mainland and its associated islands. In 1999/2000 approximately 14,762 tourists travelled to the ice. And when looking to the future, it is predicted that approximately 26,000 tourists are expected for 2005/2006 (Maher, P.T., Steel, G., & McIntosh, A, p.204).
Visitors who are visiting today are from a variety of first-world countries (e.g., United States, Germany, Canada, Japan, etc). These tourists are well educated and travelled, have lots of disposable income, and are looking for a unique experience (Maher, P.T., Steel, G., & McIntosh, A, p.205). Antarctic ecotourism has evolved, and has been divided into ship-borne, land-based and airborne tourism. In Ship-borne tourism, it much cheaper and friendlier to the environment to travel by boat. Also, private yacht tours have emerged as a source of transportation. As yacht tours expand and increase in