press release
Published: 27 February 2024

Making tourism count for Antarctica

A recent report submitted to the UK Parliament by University of Surrey academics suggests that the impact of tourism on Antarctica may be more complex than previously thought. The research explores the potential impact of Antarctic tourism on environmental conservation, questioning some existing assumptions.

Surrey’s Dr Christy Hehir, author of the study, presented her findings to the Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research on Monday 26 February. She told them how tourists have the potential to transform into conservation champions, boosting funding and driving positive change.

Dr Hehir, Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Events at the University of Surrey, said:

"In the era of potentially unsustainable tourism growth, this research is an optimistic step forward in making tourism count for conservation and shaping a sustainable future for Antarctic tourism.

"Our research suggests that social identity might be one way to explain the long-term impact of educational expeditions, highlighting the critical importance of an alumni or Ambassadorial programme."

Dr Hehir's research focuses on the impact of tourism on Antarctica and how it can be managed more responsibly. Key findings of the research include:

  • Nature connection drives philanthropy: tourists who identify strongly with the natural environment they visit are more likely to donate to conservation charities. Dr Hehir has developed guidelines for tour operators to encourage tourists to donate, potentially increasing funding for conservation efforts.
  • Citizen science empowers tourists: Engaging tourists in citizen science projects can educate them about environmental issues and encourage responsible behaviour. Dr Hehir recommends collaborating with existing organisations like the Polar Citizen Science Collective to leverage the reach of polar travellers.

Dr Hehir hopes that her recommendations can help ensure that tourism contributes positively to the conservation of this unique and fragile environment.

Dr Hehir’s work contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly: SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water).


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