Antarctica: Destination Analysis 2019
Antarctica is the only uninhabited continent in the extreme south of our planet, discovered in 1820 by a Russian round-the-world expedition led by Thaddeus Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. On December 1, 1959, an international treaty was concluded, according to which Antarctica does not belong to any state and is a world natural reserve.
Antarctica is the most mysterious, enigmatic and poorly explored continent, and the journey there is the dream of many adventurers. If earlier it was possible to get to the continent only as part of an expedition, now tours to Antarctica are quite a common event.
The first commercial expeditions began to transport tourists only in 60 years, but they were few. In 70 years, some air companies began to organize flights to Antarctica from Australia and New Zealand. In the early 90 years, tour operators began to offer cruises to tourists. But the real boom of Antarctic tourism was noted after 2000. For example, in the 2017 season, Antarctica was visited by 51.7 thousand travelers, which is 17% more than in 2016. The Russian’s share in this flow was 198 and 330 people, respectively.
Most often, Antarctica is visited by Americans, this figure is about 33% of all travelers. Another 16% accounted for tourists from China. Of the total number of travelers, 11% of visitors to the ice peninsula are Australians, 7% are from Germany and the UK.
You can get to Antarctica only by air or by sea. The most popular air route to the icy continent begins in the Chilean city of Punta Arenas. Another air route is from Cape Town South Africa. There are also air flights to Antarctica from Australia, but these flights are simple “sightseeing” tours, which are without landing on the surface of Antarctica and are accompanied by a thematic lecture by a specialist from the Australian Antarctic Division. Such tours are available to ordinary tourists. This flight lasts about 12-13 hours.
Most often, tourists choose sea cruises, because they allow you to fully enjoy the fantastic landscapes of Antarctica and to make a deep walk. Most cruises start from sea port of Ushuaia in Argentina, as well as from Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Cruise from South America to Antarctica and back continues usually 10-12 days. Some trips last 3 weeks and usually include excursions to the Falkland Islands, Malvinas and South Sandwich Islands. The average price of cruises to Antarctica for 10 days ranges from $ 5,000 to $ 10,000, and the budget for a long trip can up to $ 20,000.
For tourists, Antarctica is available only during the southern polar summer from November to March, during which the sea ice melts and the air temperature rises to plus 5 - 10 degrees.
In Antarctica, tour operators offer activities such as hiking on snowshoes, canoeing, skiing, mountaineering, diving under shelf ice, exploring ice grottos or watching the population of penguins, seals and whales. Some sightseeing tours include visiting of research stations and acquaintance with the life of scientists, working in Antarctica, as well as night stay in small tents and sleeping bags, and even a tour to the South Pole.
However, there is an excellent option for lovers of comfortable accommodation among the ices - the five-star hotel complex “White Desert”, which has six capsules (here they are called “sleeping pods”) with sleeping places, a bar, a library and a restaurant. Naturally, all the equipment and service are at the highest level. In the complex, you can even hold a wedding ceremony. But, it works only two months a year, in November and December - in the beginning of the polar summer. 8 days of accommodation in the “White Desert” will cost $ 64,000, but it’s worth it.
In 1991, seven travel companies that had arranged over several years expeditions to Antarctica established the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), whose goal is to advertise and promote safe and environmentally responsible tourist travel to the icy continent. Most tourists in Antarctica are customers of IAATO, where there are more than 100 companies today. Unfortunately, not a single Russian travel company is a member of IAATO, however some Russian tour operators, forming Russian groups for traveling to Antarctica, are the official representatives of IAATO. For example, the Russian tour operator Peks represents the British company Poseidon Expeditions, and Special Travel Club is a representative of the American cruise company Quark Expeditions.
The activities of tour operators, the members of IAATO, are constantly and strictly monitored in order to fully implement landing procedures and to strictly follow rules and standards during tourist visits to Antarctica in order to prevent adverse effects on its environment.
The President of Russia has repeatedly expressed his support for the idea of creating a domestic tourism structure for popularization of visits to Antarctica and for promotion of Antarctic tourism.
According to experts of this destination, there is a significant interest in traveling to Antarctica among Russian tourists, especially considering the fact, that the southern continent was discovered by Russian researchers. But it is likely, Antarctica is to remain as a specialized and relatively expensive niche destination, offered by a limited number of experienced operators, who are focused on educational tourism to the areas of wild nature.