Polar tourism regulation strategies: controlling visitors through codes of conduct and legislation

Margaret E. Johnston

Polar Record

Volume 33 / Issue 184 / January 1997, pp 13-20



Controlling visitor impacts in polar regions continues to be important in both the Antarctic and Arctic. Concerns relate to impacts on the physical environment, cultural heritage, and host communities or scientific bases, as well as a recognition that safety and liability are major issues for governments, commercial operators, and local populations. Strategies for controlling tourists include visitor and operator codes and formal legislation. This paper summarises several approaches to visitor regulation in polar regions in order to illustrate the ways in which concerns about tourist impacts are being addressed. Similar issues arise throughout the polar regions, although in some places a particular emphasis might indicate a specific area of concern for a community, region, nation, or segment of the tourism industry. While a comprehensive strategy might be appropriate in many respects in the Arctic, it is also important to acknowledge the significance of more specific concerns. This paper first describes regulation of tourist behaviour and considers general issues of strategy effectiveness. Then it examines the approaches to visitor regulation used in the Antarctic and on S valbard as examples that may be of use in the further development of strategies in the Arctic. The paper then discusses an evolving strategy for control in the Northwest Territories, Canada. This strategy differs from these other approaches in that it targets a specific segment of the visitor population: those undertaking adventure expeditions.