IAATO held a meeting with members last week to discuss operations for the season following recently released COVID-19 parameters for travel from Antarctic gateways Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas.
'The past year and a half has been challenging as we’ve learned more about COVID-19, and we and our members have constantly been re-evaluating the feasibility of a season. This has required a great deal of flexibility and agile working on behalf of our members and conversations are continuing as the season draws closer,' IAATO Executive Director Gina Greer said.
Close collaboration with gateways
The association, which has more than 100 members worldwide, has been working over the last 16 months to deliver keystone recommendations regarding COVID-19 protocols when Antarctic operations resume in late 2021. Much of this work has involved close collaboration with Antarctic gateways.
Some members have taken the difficult decision not to operate for the 2021/22 season but, for the majority, preparations are continuing.
IAATO formed its COVID-19 Advisory Group in June 2020, leveraging the experience of the association's existing committees and working groups, as well as the expertise of the secretariat, stakeholders and worldwide industry standards navigate the challenges and complexities of the pandemic.
Challenges for some members
Over the last two months gateway governments released initial guidance. Operators have raised questions about the feasibility of some requirements given the diverse nature of the IAATO membership, which ranges from yachts carrying no more than 12 people to large cruise vessels.
Greer added: 'Our work with the Antarctic gateway authorities is a critical part of pre-season preparations, and it is important to IAATO and its members that the diversity of the IAATO membership is reflected within gateways’ COVID-19 protocols so that they can be applied to all responsible tourism providers.
Many questions remain
'It’s been encouraging to see the recent guidance from Argentina and Chile relating to Antarctic tourism, but the reality is that it will be challenging for some operators to implement. There are still a lot of questions and we’re working through them with the gateway authorities.'
IAATO operators need to have a permit or authorization from an Antarctic Treaty Party or relevant government, submitting their Advance Notification and Environmental Impact Assessment to IAATO ahead of the season.