Antarctica cruise operators approve new safety guidelines
By Johanna Jainchill
Operators offering cruises in Antarctica
have agreed to new guidelines for sailing to
the White Continent in order to
improve marine safety.
The 43 members of
the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators agreed
in a satellite
vessel tracking system, to
and to require
that ships have at
least one ice captain or ice pilot with
Antarctica experience on
rine safety followed the April report by the
government of Liberia on the 2007 sinking
of GAP Adventures’ Explorer cruise ship,
in which the lack of Antarctica experience
on the part of the captain was
cited as a major contributing factor.
In the last four
years, six cruise
ships have hit ice
or rocks in Antarctica.
of actions to
tasked with as-
could be put in
place as industry
best practice prior
to the upcoming
Steve Wellmeier, execu-
tive director of
IAATO, said of
The rules adopted by the members of the International Association of
Antarctica Tour Operators take effect south of 60 degrees latitude: Most
cruises operate near the Antarctic Peninsula. The rules include stricter
requirements that captains sailing there have Antarctic ice experience.
be that difficult for most lines to comply
with, Wellmeier said, because all but four
of the 43 IAATO members currently have
enclosed lifeboats, a requirement that takes
effect for the upcoming season, and 60% of
members already subscribe to the satellite
tracking system, which becomes mandatory in 2010.
and February, the height of austral summer, in areas where there basically is no
The requirement for an
experienced ice captain is
but the language of those
requirements makes compliance somewhat vague.
“The language takes into consideration
the range of environments, seasonality,
types of ships and types of experiences
offered by the different operators,” he
said. “One size does not
The new rules say that
experience with Antarctic
ice must be “suitable” for
the operators’ “intended
IAATO also created a group to
investigate methods to reduce
footprint on the
Several large cruise ships
do cruise-only sailings in
Antarctica and do not bring
their passengers ashore.
Those operators, Wellmeier
said, have to comply with
the new regulations, but
they already carry ice captains in addition to their
“What this means is that
each operator will have to
analyze their operation in terms of what
their intended mission is,” Wellmeier
said. “Will they go into the ice, typical of
a smaller expedition vessel with ice-class
hull capable of this sort of operation? …
Or will they stay in the northern areas of
the [Antarctic] Peninsula, during January
IAATO also created a
group to investigate methods
to reduce tourism’s carbon footprint on Antarctica and raise awareness among passengers
of its implications.
The changes came amid news that visits
to Antarctica dropped 17% this past season,
to 38,200 visitors, from the peak 2007-2008
number of 46,265.
Travel Impressions adds Australia-South Pacific tours
By Michelle Baran
Despite being a long-haul market in an
environment that favors short-haul travel,
Australia and the South Pacific are proving
surprisingly attractive to tour operators.
Travel Impressions said last week that it
would introduce tours to Australia, New
Zealand and Fiji in Q4, making it the third
major operator to introduce South Pacific
product in little more than a year.
“We understand the nature of the current environment, but we also want to be
well-positioned for the recovery,” Sallie
Rawlings, senior director of corporate com-
munications at Travel Impressions, wrote
in an email. “Just as we are seeing a gradual
pickup in Europe, we think travelers will
return to long-haul travel.”
Travel Impressions partnered with ATS
Pacific Group, a regional inbound management company, to do the product buying,
which the operator will then tap into to offer both escorted and independent tours.
While travelers from all over the U.S. venture to the South Pacific, with flights originating from Los Angeles and San Francisco,
the destinations tend to be more popular for
West Coast and Pacific Northwest travelers,
a market that Travel Impressions, based in
Farmingdale, N. Y., has been cultivating.
Travel Impressions’ move is interesting
considering that longer-haul destinations
such as those in the South Pacific — some
cities can be a 13- to 14-hour trip from the
West Coast of the U.S. — have faced challenges in the current recession.
Tourism Australia, the Australian government’s promotion arm, reported 5. 1 million
international visitors to Australia for the year
ended March 31. That represented a 2% decline for the same period a year earlier.
Nevertheless, operators said their entrance into the South Pacific was more
about a longer-term investment.
Gogo Worldwide Vacations expanded its
international offering in September to include 20 destinations throughout Australia,
and eight destinations in New Zealand, the
Cook Islands, Fiji and Tahiti. The operator
is capitalizing on the destination resources
of its parent, Australia-based Flight Centre.
And in December, Classic Vacations expanded into Fiji, where it had initiated a
stopover product in 2007.
“Fiji, now it’s up and coming because the
currency is right,” said Joelle Arriola, Classic’s South Pacific product director. “We’re
seeing more people come into the market,
because there’s more airlift.”
Arriola specifically cited Delta, which
launched Los Angeles-Sydney service on