Proactively managing Antarctic tourism growth

Antarctica hosts an increasing number of tourists, which has detrimental impacts for Antarctica’s environment. The complexity of Antarctic governance hinders enactment of new regulations to address growth. Antarctic tourism and tour operators are primarily governed by domestic regulations of Antarctic Treaty states and limited forms of self-regulation. These governance arrangements are incapable of restricting growth. This project will explore Antarctic tourism growth and policy options that may better align that growth with the fundamental values of the Antarctic Treaty System.


Antarctica is the last great wilderness on Earth and a fragile landscape. Tourism to Antarctica has become increasingly popular in recent decades. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, annual visitation numbers were growing exponentially. While the pandemic temporarily halted tourism worldwide, Antarctic tourism has started to rebound quickly, and its growth will likely continue to accelerate as before. Current ATS policies and institutional arrangements permit Antarctic tourism to grow without limit.

The environmental impacts of tourism have been well documented over the years, as have negative impacts on human safety and scientific research.  Furthermore, mass tourism may detract from the intrinsic values of Antarctica that draw those visitors. Despite being explicitly protected within the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), persistent underfunding has hindered effective protection of these values, along with consistent monitoring of tourism impacts on them. If the fundamental values and principles of ATS are to be preserved along with the Antarctic environment, then fresh ideas on tourism growth are urgently needed.


The project’s main objectives are to: 1) explore stakeholder framings of Antarctic tourism growth; 2) create a participatory model of the system dynamics of Antarctic tourism growth; 3) provide proof of concept for proactive growth interventions; and 4) simulate that system with stakeholders via ‘serious game’.


The project deploys a transdisciplinary, multi-methods approach, including qualitative methods, the semi-quantitative tool of fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM), and serious gaming. Framing analysis yields stakeholder perceptions of tourism growth. FCM creates an overview of the main elements of the Antarctic tourism system and their interdependencies. Built upon FCM modeling outputs, the serious game allows stakeholders to experience what occurs when various policy options are introduced to the system.

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