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antarctica zodiac exploration (photo - IAATO)
At the conference, expedition staff will discuss issues in the field and share best practices. Here, a Zodiac excursion in Antarctica PHOTO: IAATO

Polar expedition guides to meet on responsible field leadership

They may be literally poles apart, but more than 80 Antarctic and Arctic expedition guides will gather next week for a joint conference on responsible field leadership.

This will be the third biannual joint conference of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators. The event is set for Sept. 22-25 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

Joint mission of safe and responsible travel

Guides, expedition leaders and operations managers working for IAATO and AECO will gather to share knowledge in support of the two associations’ joint mission of promoting safe and environmentally responsible travel to the polar regions.

Topics will include industry updates, presentations on the UN Clean Seas initiative, Antarctic ambassadorship and citizen science. Attendees will also learn about the tourist of tomorrow, with particular focus on expectations, cultural sensitivity and the role of marketing and communication.

Susan Adie, head of IAATO’s Field Operations Committee, called the meeting an important opportunity to gather a ‘wealth of polar guiding knowledge and expertise in one room’ to discuss issues faced in the field and share best practices from initiatives like beach cleanups in Svalbard and citizen science projects around the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic islands, such as measuring krill aggregation and analyzing water samples for microplastics.

Field staff development a priority

Field staff development is a priority for the two polar travel associations responsible for the conference.

‘Field staff are important decision-makers in our industry. Our goal is to educate and empower the guides and expedition leaders that are out the field every day to ensure that all activities are carried out in a considerate and responsible manner,’ said Frigg Jørgensen, executive director for AECO.