Polar Policy in Practice: Tour Guiding in Antarctica

Hanne Nielsen, Gabriela Roldan

Each year, decisions on the management of Antarctic tourism take place at high-level meetings within the Antarctic Treaty System; these guidelines and recommendations inform the activities of those who travel to the Antarctic Region on commercially organized voyages and expeditions. In addition, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), promotes advocacy and responsible tourism management within its membership, providing guidelines and resources to ensure safe visitor management. This paper examines the role of the Antarctic tour guide as the front-line actor in interpreting and enforcing these directives before Antarctic visitors, and asks how guides interpret Antarctic governance in the cruise setting.

Referencing the IAATO Field Guide mandatory assessment, we ask how guides see themselves positioned within the existing structures of Antarctic governance, and how they act as mediators between theory and practice. Guests undergo mandatory IAATO briefings and biosecurity checks prior to any landings, but how is this contextualised within the wider Antarctic governance framework? And to what extent do guides see providing this context as their responsibility? Through focussed interviews with Antarctic tourism guides with a range of experience in the industry, we investigate the connections between policy decisions and on-the-ground practice and reflect on the end-user side of tourism governance decisions.


Dr Hanne Nielsen is a Lecturer at the University of Tasmania. She specialises in representations of Antarctica in cultural production, with a focus on advertising material and how Antarctica is delivered as a product. Hanne is on the executive committee of the SCAR Standing Committee on Humanities and Social Sciences (SC-HASS), book review editor for The Polar Journal, and a past president of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS). She has spent 5 seasons working as a tour guide on ships in the Southern Ocean. hanne.nielsen@utas.edu.au

Gabriela Roldan is a specialist researcher at Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury (NZ). Her academic interests range from Antarctic gateway cities and geopolitics, polar policy and management, Antarctic tourism, and polar education and outreach. Gabriela is a COMNAP Fellow and current Vice President of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS). Gabriela has visited Antarctica over 50 times working as a tour guide.  gabriela.roldan@canterbury.ac.nz

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