Antarctic tourism operators prepare for convention in Punta Arenas, Chile

Chile seeks greater presence in White Continent tourism trade.

A natural ice sculpture in Antarctica. Photo by Guille Avalos / Flickr.
A natural ice sculpture in Antarctica. Photo by Guille Avalos / Flickr.

Tourism operators promoting the Antarctica – aka the White Continent – will convene early next year in Chile to bring greater publicity to one of the world’s most remote tourist destination.

The 24th annual meeting of the International Organization of Antarctic Tourism Operators (IAATO) will take place in Punta Arenas between April 22 – 25, 2013.

IAATO helps regulate non-scientific travel to the region. More than 100 businesses are expected to attend, or about 90% of the tourism operators now promoting the White Continent.

Industry leaders predict that 35,000 tourists will be traveling to the White Continent during the 2012-2013 season. Tourists will either fly over the region or travel on specially outfitted cruise vessels departing from Argentina and Chile.

This is the first time IAATO has convened its annual meeting in Chile, and national tourism leaders expect the event to give a big boost to Chile’s growing Antarctic tourism trade.

Andrea Téllez, the Magallanes regional director of Sernatur – the national tourism promotion office – led a press conference in Punta Arenas to explain the importance of the upcoming event.

“The fact that more than 90% of the Antarctica’s tourism operators will be attending the IAATO event underscores how important this region has become for the Antarctica’s tourism operators,” she said.

Téllez emphasized that the conference will give national and regional authorities a chance to really understand what Antarctica tourism operators need-  She said that it also provides a perfect opportunity to promote Chile as an entrance to Antarctica and Punta Arenas as a provider of Antarctica-related tourism services.

Téllez noted that Chile is one of several countries with nationally funded scientific projects based in the Antarctica and that  Chile’s scientists use Punta Arenas as their base for flying personnel to the Rey Jorge Island, the center for Chile’s scientific research programs.

The Antarctica is accessible for tourists only during the austral summer season from November to March, during which sea ice melts enough to allow access, coastal temperatures can rise up to highs of 57°F (14°C) and there are twenty four hours of daylight. During the winter the sea is impassable. Temperatures can fall to -40°F/C and there are twenty four hours of darkness.