Antarctica is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination. Tourists are embarking on luxury cruises to visit the unique holiday destination.
According to the international association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), tourism in the Antarctic has increased by 770% in the last 26 years.
In efforts to reduce impact, tourists are given guidelines to remain distant from animals and clothing has to adhere to cleaning standards in order to prevent the introduction of non-native species.
Additionally, many activities on the visiting cruises create awareness among tourists on environmental responsibility.
An increase in visitors to the area once only reserved for few scientists is a huge concern. The continents fragile ecosystems already threatened by climate change are now facing further challenges to conservation.
Evidence of environmental change caused by human visitation to the area is already occurring.
According to research portal, Discovering Antarctica, “Ice sheets surrounding the continent are beginning to retreat due to the increase in sea temperatures. Krill, an essential food source for whales, is decreasing, with consequences for the whole Antarctic food chain” (Discovering Antarctica, 2019).
World leaders meet annually in an effort to protect the continent against human activities as it is the largest amount of freshwater on earth and regulates its temperatures. The consequences for further warming this region threaten the entire planet.
Is it possible for the tourist industry in the Antarctic to grow sustainably?
Are further restrictions to visitation of the area necessary to prevent further damage?