Antarctica Flights: Scenic tourism exploits ecosystems

Antarctica Flights, an Australian scenic tourism company, continues to promote its trips to Antarctica despite the significant climate concerns in the world’s last greatest wilderness.

The business has been running for 27 years, using the Qantas Dreamliner 787, which provides sight-seeing access to one of the key drivers of Earth’s oceanic and atmospheric systems.

The question is whether human fascination with the strange beauty and incredible biodiversity of Antarctica outweighs the need to protect this vulnerable ecosystem.

The history behind Antarctica Flights

The travel company has sent over 150 flights to the white continent, providing passengers with an opportunity to experience the Antarctic for a day.  The domestic flights are located in seven different locations across Australia such as Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

scenic tourism company Antarctica Flights causing a stir in the Antarctic
Individuals taking photos

The business has stated its commitment to ” protect this magnificent and pristine environment’ by making all flights carbon neutral, which will reduce their individual carbon emissions.

In addition, using the airline Qantas which has a history of sustainability and supporting charities such as Antarctica Science Foundation and One-Tomorrow Charity fund. Whilst their intentions are notable, are these methods an example of greenwashing?

“It is a bit of a greenwash because a carbon offset contribution isn’t going to deal with the emissions that a plane flying across the planet kicks out,” According to Financial Review, Christopher Wright, a professor at the University of Sydney Business School and a member of the university’s Environment Institute.

Since individuals want to see the frozen glaciers before they disappear, scenic tourism in Antarctica is expanding rapidly. Creating an oxymoron, as the increase of  Antarctica flights is one of the reasons that the frozen land is heading towards long-term and irreversible damage.

The impact of over-tourism

Tourism in Antarctica is regulated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), which applies strict rules and guidelines to its 113 members of ships and tour operators. As a result, there is now a comprehensive framework in place to safeguard the ecosystem of the Arctic, which prohibits mining and mineral exploitation.

Despite having these systems installed to reduce the impact of human presence, this may not be enough to combat Antarctica slowly becoming a mainstream travel destination and the growing issue of climate change.

IAATO 2020 report shows that 73,991 visitors travelled to Antarctica between October 2019 and April 2020. A significant increase in numbers from the 2018/2019 season, which saw 56,000 visitors.

Sir Peter Scott, the founder of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), famously stated about Antarctica in 1966: “We should have the sense to leave just one place alone”.

With its archive of information contained in its massive ice sheets that reveal what the earth’s environment had been like more than about a million years ago, Antarctica offers vital information about the history of our planet. It preserves 70% of all available freshwater, and if this were to melt would dangerously raise sea levels by 58 meters. It is one of the world’s most important ‘natural laboratories’.

scenic tourism company Antarctica Flights causing a stir in the Antarctic
Antartica © Torsten Dederichs via Unsplash

Time for a change?

It is important for Antarctica to be saved in real life for future generations, rather than preserved as a memory on someone’s camera roll. While the Arctic environment continues to spark people’s curiosity, it is imperative that we act right away and consider the ethics of expeditions to the Antarctic.

Do you think scenic tourism in Antarctica should be banned? Let us know in the comments below

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Danielle Osifo
Danielle Osifo
Danielle Osifo is a first year media student at the University of New South Wales. She is a freelance journalist who enjoys creative writing and reading in her spare time.


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