The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has released its tourism figures for the 2015-2016 Antarctic season showing a 4.6 percent increase over the previous season.
American and Australian visitors remained the most numerous, accounting for 35.5 percent and 11 percent of the total number respectively, similar to last year. China moved up to third place, accounting for 10.6 percent of the total, increasing by 25.7 percent since the previous season. British (8.4 percent), German (7.4 percent) and Canadian (4.8 percent) visitors were the next most abundant nationalities in Antarctica in 2015-2016.
The total numbers of visitors travelling to Antarctica, with IAATO members, was 38,478. Overall, levels of visitation have been increasing steadily since 2011-2012 in line with global trends. Estimates released for next season, 2016-2017, indicate that growth will continue with 43,885 visitors expected, still less than the peak of 46,265 during the 2007-2008 austral summer.
Visiting the coastal regions of Antarctica is the most popular form of tourism with only 1.1 percent of visitors travelling inland to the Antarctic interior in 2015-2016, comparable with previous years. Most (98.9 percent) seaborne passengers travelled to the Antarctic Peninsula with 21.3 percent of these on ‘cruise only’ vessels that do not make landings.
The remainder visited the Peninsula on vessels carrying fewer than 500 passengers, which make landings. Of these visitors, 72.5 percent sailed and six percent flew from South America. In the case of the latter, known as air/cruise tourism, passengers land on the Peninsula and immediately board a ship. This sector showed the most growth compared to the previous season, increasing by 37.5 percent. Overall, seaborne tourism with landings grew by 10.5 percent since the 2014-2015 season, a trend that is expected to continue next year.