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Call to limit Antarctic tourism

Published: 1:40PM Saturday November 24, 2007 Source: Newstalk ZB/ONE News

Greenpeace believes tourism in Antarctica should be strictly limited after the MS Explorer hit ice and was abandoned.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Bunny McDiarmid is worried that with a growing number of people going to the continent it is inevitable things like this will happen. McDiarmid says the sinking could be a major disaster for the region.

She says it is one of the last pristine environments and needs to be protected.

McDiarmid says the risks are just far too great to continue to allow people to travel there. She says at the Antarctic flat and calm conditions can change substantially and very quickly to 80 knot winds.

And McDiarmid says the potential for significant loss of life should no longer be overlooked.

But House of Travel says it is extremely safe to travel to Antarctica. Spokesman Ian Collier says he has no hesitation recommending Antarctica as a safe destination.

"Any travel has risk, it is totally unavoidable but when you consider the vast numbers of people who cruise to the Antarctic and the number of incidents, you have to concur the risk is low."

About 40 different operators using around 60 ships allow 37,000 people to cruise to the winter playground of the world annually.

"The standards in place are rigourous for any company wanting to be in the tourism business in the Antarctic. Strict risk management plans must be in place and are tested regularly to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew," Collier says.

While there were no New Zealanders on the Explorer when it got into difficulty, Adventure Travel Christchurch had three customers scheduled to cruise to Antarctica in the next three weeks.