The two-and-a-half-day meeting has drawn more than 80 guides, expedition leaders and operations managers working for AECO and IAATO (Pic IAATO)

Polar field guides are descending on Sturbridge, Massachusetts for the third bi-annual International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) joint Polar Field Staff Conference.

The two-and-a-half-day meeting, which started this Monday has drawn more than 80 guides, expedition leaders and operations managers working for AECO and IAATO with the aim of sharing learning and knowledge to support the two associations’ joint mission of promoting safe and environmentally responsible travel to the polar regions.

The packed program will include sessions on responsible leadership in the field, new developments, projects and initiatives in the Arctic and Antarctic, managing visitor expectations, Antarctic Ambassadorship, cultural considerations in Arctic communities, UN Clean Seas and citizen science projects.

Susan Adie, head of the IAATO Polar Field Operations Committee, said: “We are delighted to be hosting our bi-annual Polar Field Staff Conference with AECO and to be welcoming more than 80 delegates here to further our shared mission.

“Field staff are at the forefront of our responsible tourism operations, so this meeting is a hugely important date in our calendar.

“Managing human activity in the poles to ensure the unique qualities are treasured and preserved is a huge collective effort but one which ultimately relies heavily on those leading expeditions in the Antarctic and the Arctic – the front line of responsible polar tourism.”

Formed in 1991, IAATO’s commitment to furthering its mission and vision has drawn support from government departments around the world, through the Antarctic Treaty System, scientists, environmentalists and other important polar partners, collectively facilitating the management of human activity on and around the white continent and sub-Antarctic islands.

Event coordinator, IAATO’s Erin Delaney, said: “With AECO and IAATO operating within different seasons, it is really important for both organizations – to come together and discuss experiences and ideas.

“It is an enormous privilege to travel to the poles – and no one appreciates that more than those who lead visitors on expeditions there; educating guests about the global environmental importance of the Arctic and Antarctic, and transforming tourists into ambassadors for the ongoing preservation of these special places.
“With so much knowledge and enthusiasm for the poles in the room this, our third bi-annual gathering promises to be lively and productive one.”