Schumann-Reisen discontinues Arctic and Antarctic tours | Polarjournal
The cruise vessel “MSC Meraviglia” with a capacity of 5,714 passengers in the port of Longyerbyen (Spitsbergen). Visits are likely to get a little tight in the town of 2,800 inhabitants. (Photo: Port of Longearbyen)

The development of polar tourism

Voyages to Antarctica and the Arctic are booming. Tourism to Antarctica started in the 1960s and made a very modest beginning. While there were only 6,400 tourists in the 1991/92 season, by the 2017/18 season the number had risen to 42,600. The 22/23 season already saw 71,000 visitors (excluding cruise-only guests). To regulate tourist operations and promote a more sustainable tourism, the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) was founded in 1991 and is based in Newport (Rhode Island).

Arctic tourism has been operating since the 19th century and is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the far north. By 2003, the AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) had been founded to regulate the flow of tourists in part of the Arctic. However, the Norwegian government seems to think that things have gotten out of hand on Svalbard, leading to strict regulation from the 2025 season onwards.

The Russian icebreaker “Kapitan Khlebnikov” in the Antarctic. The ship was also used for tourist cruises in the Arctic. Last time with the North-East Passage in 2016. (Image: Rosamaria Kubny)

Today, supply exceeds demand

In the 1990s, there were only a few ships carrying tourists in the polar regions. The capacity of the ships ranged from 35 to 160 passengers. Voyages were offered as expeditions. The majority of the ice-strengthened ships were of Russian origin and were rather modest in terms of amenities.

After 2010, more and more cruise companies entered the market and, as a result, more and larger vessels. This has led to excess capacity in the last 5 years and some operators have had to offer a large part of their services at a discount. The average capacity of the ships nowadays is 200 passengers and more, and these departures are still offered as expeditions.

Back then “in”, now “out”: ice-strengthened ships, mostly from Russia, with a passenger capacity of just under 50 people. (Archive foto)

Schuman Reisen as the first tour operator to discontinue polar tours.

“Trips to the North and South Poles are indeed a very special and fascinating experience. Our guests who wanted to experience this with us very much regret that we no longer offer these trips,” says CEO Thomas Schumann in an interview with the Leipziger Zeitung. But if you want to preserve the unique, highly sensitive ecosystems, you have to refrain from traveling there.

“Another important reason for our withdrawal is the lack of positive effects for the local population. While tourism provides local people with jobs and secures their livelihoods in many countries, this doesn’t play a role in Antarctica in particular, as there is no local population there,” Thomas Schumann explains further in the interview.

According to Schumann Reisen, the company is committed to environmentally friendly and socially just tourism and its activities are geared towards greater sustainability. The aim of Schumann Reisen is to offer trips that are responsible and in harmony with nature and society. The company is focusing primarily on reducing climate-damaging greenhouse gases.

Thomas Schumann: “Travel to the Arctic and Antarctic is no longer compatible with our commitment to environmentally friendly and climate-friendly tourism. (Photo: Schumann Reisen)

See the fascination of the Arctic and Antarctic once again.

The untouched nature and remoteness, the massive icy landscape and fascinating wildlife are the dream of many people. Progressive global warming is particularly visible in the Arctic. Many people want to see the endangered polar ice landscapes and the animals that live there with their own eyes before they disappear.

Climate change is particularly noticeable at the North and South Poles. The million-year-old ice caps are melting. According to the Alfred Wegener Institute, three square meters of “perpetual ice” disappear for every tonne of CO₂. According to AWI calculations, a trip to the poles causes an average of 13 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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