On October 1 - 4, more than 90 representatives from the Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruise industry will gather in Iceland for the second AECO/IAATO Polar Field Staff Conference. The topic of the conference is evolution and new challenges in the polar tourism industry.

Polar tourism has grown significantly over the last decade. This leads to big challenges for Polar Regions and the tourist industry as people seek mostly nature and animals. Credit: Michael Wenger
Polar tourism has grown significantly over the last decade. This leads to big challenges for Polar Regions and the tourist industry as people seek mostly nature and animals. Credit: Michael Wenger

The three-day conference program includes sessions on growth management, technological developments, safety standards, operational development, citizen science, and field staff qualification. The Polar Field Staff Conference is organized by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operations (IAATO). The conference gathers guides, expedition leaders and operations managers working for AECO and IAATO. The aim of the gathering is to support the two associations’ joint mission of advancing safe and environmentally responsible travel in the Polar Regions. “It’s a chance to discuss the practical issues that staff are facing out in the field, but it’s also an opportunity to weigh in on the larger perspective of polar tourism,” says Frigg Jørgensen, Executive Director of AECO.

Next to the Arctic regions, also Antarctic tourism grows annually. More than 40’000 people are expected to visit the icy continent next year. Credit: Michael Wenger
Next to the Arctic regions, also Antarctic tourism grows annually. More than 40’000 people are expected to visit the icy continent next year. Credit: Michael Wenger

According to Jørgensen, with greater interest in Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, managing growth will be an important topic at this year’s conference. “It is in the industry’s interest to ensure sustainable growth. AECO and IAATO are continually developing guidelines and raising standards to promote safe and responsible tourism. Our members have decades of polar field experience, and their expertise is one of our best resources as we prepare for growth,” says Jørgensen. The conference also highlights how the industry is doing to have a positive impact in the Polar Regions. One example is the many citizen science initiatives that enable polar visitors and crew to contribute to research projects, such as collecting data for whale identification or sea-ice monitoring at high latitudes.  “Involving visitors in polar research is not only good for science, it also gives them a deeper understanding of the polar regions and the need to protect these unique and globally important areas,” says Damon Stanwell-Smith, Executive Director of IAATO.

The AECO is a joint association of tour operators for Polar tourism. It promotes sustainable and environmental friendly tourism in the Arctic. AECO consists of: Ida Lund Winther (Office Manager), Frigg Jørgensen (Executive Director), Edda Falk (Communications Manager), M. Florencia Becherini (Executive secretary and accountant) Credit: AECO
The AECO is a joint association of tour operators for Polar tourism. It promotes sustainable and environmental friendly tourism in the Arctic. AECO consists of: Ida Lund Winther (Office Manager), Frigg Jørgensen (Executive Director), Edda Falk (Communications Manager), M. Florencia Becherini (Executive secretary and accountant) Credit: AECO

The biennial joint AECO/IAATO Polar Field Staff Conference is aimed at operation managers, expedition leaders and senior field staff, who are working for members of AECO and/or IAATO. This year’s theme is Evolution and New Challenges in the Tourism Industry.

Source: AECO, Edda Falk