IAATO celebrates birthday and proclaims Antarctic Ambassador Day | Polarjournal
For 30 years, IAATO members have ensured that visitors to the last great wilderness region can experience their dreams while leaving nature and wildlife as unaffected as possible. Many visitors thus become ambassadors of Antarctica. Picture: Michael Wenger

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has announced the launch of a global Antarctic Ambassadorship Day to be held for the first time in April 2022. This announcement comes as the non-profit organisation celebrates the 30th year of its mission to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible Antarctic tourism.

IAATO Executive Director Gina Greer said: “Antarctic ambassadorship has been a cornerstone of our mission since IAATO’s inception. We find that visitors returning from the region have often been moved to make changes in their lives which support conservation and educate others on the importance of protecting these precious places. We wanted to create a focal point to celebrate Antarctic Ambassadors, as well as seek to inspire others to advocate for this precious place. We invite everyone from the polar community and beyond to join us.»

Gina Greer officially became IAATO’s executive director in 2020. She holds a degree in marine conservation and policy from the prestigious Stony Brook University. Image: IAATO

On August 18, 1991, seven companies that had already been operating expeditions to Antarctica for several years announced the founding of IAATO – a global, non-profit industry alliance dedicated to safe and responsible private-sector travel to the White Continent. Today IAATO’s membership is comprised of more than 100 respected companies from across the world, each working to protect and preserve the unique place that is Antarctica.

The IAATO community is honoured to play its part in upholding the tenets of the Antarctic Treaty System. Consistent with the expectations of the Treaty, IAATO has created and developed a comprehensive set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that visitors have an enriching educational experience as part of their engagement with Antarctica.

Protecting the unique Antarctic environment from pathogens, alien species and pollution is IAATO’s top priority. For this purpose, the organization has developed extensive rules for visitors with experts. Picture: Michael Wenger

All IAATO operators recruit experts to provide structured educational programs on board their vessels or at their base camps, so by the time they reach the region, guests understand their role in visiting the continent responsibly. They’ve received mandatory briefings, scrubbed their clothing and equipment clean and had opportunities to attend lectures on polar science, exploration and governance – all in the name of Antarctic Ambassadorship.

IAATO has been using the pause in operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to develop an Antarctic Ambassadorship package to support educational programs; including resources for field staff, returning guests and Antarctic enthusiasts, launching in late 2021. In May this year, the membership organisation formalised its definition of an Antarctic Ambassador to be someone who:

– Loves and respects the region;

– Educates others by sharing their Antarctic experiences;

– Advocates for Antarctica when opportunities arise, and;

– Protects Antarctica by making positive changes at home.

Susan Adie, a long-time representative to IAATO, chairs the working group that developed the Antarctic Ambassador Program. The aim is to involve visitors to Antarctica even more closely in conservation efforts and to contribute to greater understanding of Antarctica in society. Image: IAATO

The idea behind the new L.E.A.P acronym is to empower everyone to LEAP into action as ambassadors, using their knowledge and passion in support of Antarctica.

Susan Adie from IAATO’s Education & Outreach Working Group, which is leading the development of Antarctic Ambassadorship Day, said: “The Antarctic Ambassadors community has grown organically over the years, from scientists, PhD students, and field staff to returning visitors, school students and community environmental advocates. The last 18 months have given us an opportunity to focus on formalising IAATO’s ambassadorship concept and turning it into a measurable program which goes beyond the activities which take place on expedition and opens it up to a wider audience. Ambassadorship Day is a day of celebration, inspiration and education.»

Antarctic Ambassadorship Day’s date will be released closer to the time, but will be held in April 2022 at the conclusion of the Antarctic season.

Press release IAATO

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