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The costs and benefits of tourism in Polar Regions

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The costs and benefits of tourism in Polar Regions Polar tourism has grown rapidly in recent years, bringing an influx of new visitors to add to the traditional indigenous and scientific occupants. Tourism in these regions has provided an attractive proposition for tourists and governments alike with governments receiving needed income that can boost their national and local economies. Tourists equally are guaranteed a "nature experience" in a relatively undisturbed setting and often the possibility of experiencing unique Arctic cultures and Polar environments. The attraction of these places with their abundance of natural beauties is attracting increased numbers, demanding more infrastructure and facilities. Some of these expectations are realistic, some less so and meeting them can pose both a threat and an incentive to biodiversity conservation. Beginning with the Arctic and following with the Antarctic, this paper will examine the growing phenomenon of polar tourism outlining both its benefits and costs. In doing so it will show how on the whole Arctic tourism is now widely accepted and indeed welcomed, whilst Antarctic tourism is still looked upon with some contempt, deemed unnecessary and too damaging to the environment. Arctic: Arctic tourism was first established in the 19th century and it became common place in the late 19th and early 20th century for Arctic expedition ships to carry passengers whose fares helped settle voyage expenses. ...read more.


Cruise tourism has its benefits and its costs. Firstly, cruise ships bring all their own facilities. In communities where there is little infrastructure to support large numbers of tourists, this can be an advantage since communities can concentrate on supplying, for example, cultural goods. Secondly, in larger communities, cruise tourism can cause bitterness since the economic benefits basically go to only a handful of locals and often to tourism operators from outside the Arctic. Cruise ships may also land too many passengers, overwhelming the capacities of small communities. Since the Arctic tourism season is extremely short (three or four months), the challenge is how can these communities justify major expenditures on facilities which in effect only provides temporary work? What about the rest of the time and what about years when tourism demand is low? Preserving cultural heritages and therefore sustainable practices might be the answer if indigenous communities are presented with such challenges. Tourism cannot and will not be the answer to all economic uncertainties. Antarctic: Over the last three decades a growing number of non-governmental expeditions have visited the Antarctic and a number of tourist activities have followed suite. Enzenbacher (1992) estimates as many as 39,000 tourists have visited since 1957 and that the Antarctic tourism is experiencing a substantial period of growth. ...read more.


Scientific experiments were also disrupted and the ramifications may still be being felt today. The event highlighted the great dangers of travel in polar waters. Future accidents are a threat not only in Antarctic waters but also in the Arctic since many tour ships are not ice-strengthened and therefore not designed to sail in polar conditions. Britain is currently leading an effort to introduce a new "Antarctic Code" for shipping in the Southern Ocean due to the increasing number of ships sailing around Antarctica, its aim to reduce the likelihood of a potentially devastating accident (BBC News, 2002). Having looked at a number of examples of the costs and benefits of tourism in Polar Regions it is clear there are both positive and negative success stories. In order for tourism to remain sustainable in each region a different consensus need to be drawn up between the tourism industries and management in each hemisphere since each faces different obstacles. Environmental controls need to be put on visits to Antarctica and a more precautionary approach needs to be adopted in terms of environmental protection. Similar controls with varying degrees of management need to be applied in the Arctic but it appears more emphasis should be put into protecting indigenous populations, making sure these communities are not over-exploited. Tourism can be successful polar regions but only if research, monitoring and consensus are practiced in order to continue improving our understanding and, if necessary to further refine these working rules. ...read more.

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