IAATO sets date for official Antarctic Ambassador Day | Polarjournal
With its LEAP project, the IAATO does not want to support leaping penguins, but describes the characteristics of an Antarctic ambassador. Picture: Michael Wenger

Expedition tourism to Antarctica has experienced a powerful boom in recent years. People from all continents and backgrounds have ventured across the Southern Ocean to experience the white continent. The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), which promotes sustainable and safe tourism in Antarctica, has now identified an opportunity to do more for Antarctica and its conservation with these visitors.

On the occasion of its 30th birthday, the IAATO outlined the concept of Antarctic Ambassadorship more precisely for its Antarctic Ambassadorship program, calling this definition “LEAP”. The acronym is made up of the words that describe an Antarctic ambassador:

Loves and respects the region; Educates and informs others by sharing his/her Antarctic experience; Advocates for Antarctica when the opportunity arises; Protects Antarctica by making positive changes at home as well.

In a press release, IAAT states that the idea behind the new acronym is to empower everyone to put LEAP into action as ambassadors for the region, using their knowledge and passion to support Antarctica.

Lori Gross is part of the Education and Outreach Working Group at IAATO and co-creator the LEAP program. She has also been a guide and expedition leader in Antarctica for years. Image: Diego Punta Fernandez via IAATO

Lori Gross of IAATO’s Education and Outreach Working Group said, “Ambassadorship is such a huge part of our mission and vision but has never been fully formalised. We’ve used the period of pause created by the pandemic to strengthen the definition of an Antarctic Ambassador and develop a more structured program, including creating a more visual way of showcasing Antarctic Ambassadors globally.” Now, to give this ambassador program more emphasis and also attention, the association has created an official “Antarctic Ambassadorship Day” and set it for April 25. “We’re really looking forward to unveiling this work on Antarctic Ambassadorship Day as well as showcasing our existing ambassadors, celebrating their achievements and hopefully inspiring others to begin their own Ambassadorship journey,” Gross continues.

Expedition teams aboard IAATO member ships introduce visitors to Antarctic diversity and the aspects that make up the region through presentations and also directly on site. This has been an essential part of the IAATO mission since its launch in 1991. Picture: Michael Wenger

The Antarctic Ambassadors Program has been a cornerstone of IAATO’s mission since its founding in 1991, the association explains in its release. The same year also saw the creation of the Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protocol, which set standards for the protection of the region for all who operate there. The IAATO has adopted these standards and developed them to reflect the changed conditions since 1991. The IAATO and its members believe that the ultimate protection and conservation of Antarctica is largely dependent on sound policies adhered to by all parties to the Antarctic Treaty, it further writes. In connection with its ambassadorship program, the association thus aims to achieve even greater protection for Antarctica among the general public. After all, “the love and respect for the continent, a desire to educate others about it, and a willingness to work to protect it are all things instilled in those fortunate enough to have witnessed the beauty of the region firsthand” are powerful ways to make a positive contribution to Antarctica at home as well.

After their return, visitors to Antarctica can use their pictures, experiences and knowledge to inspire others to also work for the protection of Antarctica from home. Picture: Michael Wenger

However, according to the IAATO, the ambassadorship program is not reserved to those who have made the journey to the white continent. With LEAP, the association also wants to inspire people who are simply interested in this region and its conservation to become an Antarctic ambassador. To this end, opportunities for schools and individuals will be offered and material published so that they can impart knowledge to others outside Antarctica. According to Gina Greer, the IAATO executive director, “Ambassadorship is something anyone can get involved in, and we’re excited to host the first Antarctic Ambassadorship Day this year in the hope it will inspire more people to join this exciting community.” PolarJournal will also join in and contribute to the Antarctic Ambassadors program in collaboration with IAATO.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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