Tourism in the Antarctic: Modi Operandi and Regulatory Effectiveness
Thesis DisciplineAntarctic Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Antarctic tourism represents the largest and fastest growing commercial activity on the Antarctic continent. Under consideration of its unprecedented growth and diversification, the Antarctic tourism sector is viewed with increasing scrutiny and concern. This concern is expressed in discussions surrounding the success and effectiveness of the existing regulatory framework for Antarctic tourism and asks what changes might be required to adequately protect the Antarctic continent in the future. Viewpoints and interests among Antarctic tourism operators, policy-makers, researchers and other stakeholders diverge, and Antarctic tourism is discussed as being either or both benefactor and detractor to the environmental and political integrity of Antarctica. This thesis discusses, regulations drawing on regime theory, the effectiveness of Antarctic tourism. It postulates the theory that the combined regulatory efforts of Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs) and industry self-regulation through the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) define the Antarctic tourism regime. Using interviews and a Delphi study as the primary methods of inquiry, stakeholder viewpoints on regulatory and operational characteristics of Antarctic tourism were collected and integrated into a discussion of the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime and an assessment of potential options for regulating Antarctic tourism in the future. The interviews provide insights particularly into operational matters and the in situ practice of tour operators and their compliance with existing regulations. The Delphi study focuses on how the current regulatory issues are addressed, how rules and regulation are enacted and whether the current regulatory framework needs improvement. The thesis research shows that Antarctic tourism stakeholders are concerned about the increasing scale and diversification of Antarctic tourism and generally subscribe to a conservation imperative when assessing potential options for the future regulation of Antarctic tourism. The Antarctic Treaty System is regarded as being stable and having matured over the years, although the regime has not been tested to any great extent. Tourism development in the Antarctic may well prove to be a first test of the stability and success of the Antarctic Treaty System. Stakeholders desire a continued strong partnership between Antarctic Treaty Parties and IAATO regarding the regulation of Antarctic tourism, but conclude that in view of the rapid development of Antarctic tourism, structural, institutional and legislative changes are necessary if Antarctic tourism regulation is to remain successful. The thesis argues that these necessary changes do not inevitably involve a complete overhaul of the existing regulatory regime for Antarctic tourism and that a new overarching regulatory instrument such as a tourism convention may neither be the most desirable nor feasible approach to regulating tourism to the Antarctic. Instead, this thesis research suggests that regulatory improvements need to build on the strengths of the current regime and on a strategic vision that should guide the future regulation of Antarctic tourism.