There is a report out of Hobart from IAATO – the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators – expressing concern over the dramatic drop in tourist visits to Antarctica. The organization is holding an annual general meeting in the Australian city that bills itself “the gateway to Antarctica.”
Disinterest by the traveling public is not behind the decline. The dramatic recession of 2008-10 kept international vacationers home, impacting visitor numbers to destinations around the world.
IAATO anticipates 26,000 Antarctic visitors in the 2011-12 season, down 20,000 from three years ago. The most recent impediment to Antarctic travel is an international fuel restriction, causing cruise lines to drop Antarctica from their menu of itineraries. The restriction mitigates the impact of an oil spill should a 500+ passenger ship run aground in Antarctica.
The reduction in capacity is good for small ship operators, and a challenge for travelers. Will the demand exceed the newly limited capacity? Only time will tell.