Cultural Geography at the 7th IPTRN Conference: 'Polar Tourism and Communities of Practice'

Published on
April 28, 2022

At the start of the austral winter, the chair of GEO Edward Huijbens and Ph.D. researcher Yousra Makanse at ProAct, presented at the 7th International Polar Tourism Research Network (IPTRN) conference, which took place from 07-14 April 2022 in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world and one of the main gateway cities to Antarctica.

With an extensive program on Polar Tourism and Communities of Practice, the participants discussed and shared experiences, knowledge, challenges, and opportunities of both Antarctic and Arctic tourism, including detailing issues of overtourism in a peripheral context, sustainable development in the polar regions, governance, and tourism narratives and enclaves in places marginal from mainstream economic activity. Workshops with the local community are an integral part of all IPTRN biannual events. This year, researchers, tourism practitioners, public agents, and residents discussed the role of gateway cities and the range of interests and perceptions of the development of Antarctic tourism.

Edward spoke about Antarctic tourism as a planetary commons and the importance of the narratives and stories we tell. He claimed that the ways in which tourism policy in Antarctica unfolds can potentially inform practices of sustaining a planetary commons. For this to happen, these need to be based on mutualism and conceptions that allows us to live equitably with the Earth and communicate with the sentience of Antarctica while developing earthly attachments through the continent. He challenged the audience to think of Antarctica as the main storyteller, as a space of hospitality, offering a means for transforming social relations and anticipating possible futures.

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Yousra spoke about the increasing diversification of tourism in Antarctica, including not only the rise of novel activities but also the modes of transport employed, overnight accommodation options, and locations. With recent tourism developments in the continent, such as the landing of an Airbus A340 carrying tourists in November last year, she discussed the relation between the values and principles of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) and tourism. She also drew upon tourism management options in the Arctic and other peripheral areas, in order to offer insights on diversification trends and governance strategies for Antarctic tourism.

The International Polar Tourism Research Network (IPTRN) is a group with a shared interest in research that advances the understanding of tourism in and about the Polar Regions. The IPTRN strives to generate, share and disseminate knowledge, resources, and perspectives on polar tourism, and strongly supports the development of international collaboration and cooperative relationships between members.

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