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Turning 30, IAATO affirms Antarctica responsible tourism commitment

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Members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators reaffirmed their commitment to their mission of safe, environmentally responsible operations, as IAATO marks its 30th anniversary.

The nonprofit organisation was founded in 1991 by seven companies which had been operating Antarctica expeditions for several years and wanted to create a global industry alliance to develop substantive regulations and guidelines compatible with the best practices in the field.

More than 100 companies

Since then, IAATO has grown to comprise more than 100 companies from across the globe, each working to ensure the protection and preservation of Antarctica through responsible practices, mandatory protocols and robust guidelines.

The reaffirmation was made at the opening of IAATO’s annual meeting May 12, held online this year due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel.

Enduring mission

'This last year wasn’t the year any of us expected. It has been challenging for all our members and their staff, but while the world remains in this period of uncertainty, our mission endures,' IAATO Executive Director Gina Greer said.

Each year at IAATO’s annual meeting — normally held in late April/early May — members gather to discuss environmental protection, safety and self-management. Decision-making is supported by recommendations developed throughout the year by dedicated committees and working groups. This concludes with voting on new policies on best practice to support the association's mission.

This year’s meeting was hosted across three four-hour sessions via video conference, allowing members to connect and discuss matters including voting on new members and committee chairs, enhanced guidelines and safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica in the wake of the pandemic. The association will also host a series of town halls to discuss other pressing topics throughout the year.

Outgoing chair's message

Outgoing IAATO Executive Committee Chair Mark van der Hulst, who steps down this year following five years on the committee, two at the helm, said: 'IAATO has resolved to set the highest possible operating standards in its mission to protect Antarctica while transporting and educating those captivated by it.

'IAATO demonstrates that first-hand, environmentally responsible travel is possible in remote and precious wilderness areas. As we mark this milestone year, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding our exceptional standards and the continuous development of operating practices to strengthen our mission.'

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