IAATO: The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators

John Splettstoesser

IAATO: The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators

John Splettstoesser

The history of tourism in Antarctica begins in about the mid-1960's, with relatively small ships contracted under the direction of Lars-Eric Lindblad, a pioneer in this field. By 1969 he had designed and built the vessel Lindblad Explorer, the forerunner of what became a model for small-ship exploration cruising in remote parts of the world. She sailed to Antarctica in 1970, and still operates there, as well as in the North Atlantic region. By the mid-1970s a second ship entered the scene in Antarctica, the World Discoverer, and by the 1980s additional vessels appeared in the market for what became a popular destination.

Lindblad initiated the concept of not only small-ship cruising but also environmental responsibility for the places visited. A self-imposed 'Code of Conduct' was initiated in order to provide guidelines for the protection of the wildlife and the environment, consisting of measures that ultimately developed into a formal set of recommendations enacted by the Antarctic Treaty Parties, countries active in science in Antarctica and also responsible for protection of its environment.

By 1991 it was apparent that Antarctic tourism was increasing in intensity, as more ships and passengers traveled to Antarctica, and the individual companies active there agreed to form an organization that would act as a single voice in representing the industry and also be responsible for developing Bylaws and environmental guidelines that expanded on the Lindblad 'Code'. It was in August of that year that the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) was formed. The original seven companies has now expanded to over 30 Full and Provisional Members, Probational and Associate Members, each of which agrees to follow the IAATO Bylaws of membership while operating in the Antarctic, and also to abide by the contents of Antarctic Treaty Recommendation XVIII-1, enacted by the Treaty Parties at Kyoto, Japan, in 1994, as well as the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. The latter provides rigid regulations for both science and tourism activities in Antarctica, and is designed to protect the pristine environment of the continent.

Companies that operate in Antarctica include various sizes of vessels, including yachts, but member companies advertise their dedication to environmental protection by displaying the IAATO logo in their brochures, a sign that the company adheres to the tenets of the Antarctic Treaty. IAATO is proud of its achievements as a steward of the pristine part of the world known as Antarctica, the Seventh Continent. Travelers who visit it become Ambassadors as a result of the transformation that occurs when they experience the magic of the place.

ExpeditionTrips.com is an associate member of IAATO and only works with ships who are members of this important organization.

Learn more about IAATO at http://iaato.org.