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Research on how tourists become Antarctic ambassadors

04 July 2022

Dr Annette Scheepstra of the UG Arctic Centre, part of the Faculty of Arts, is about to conduct research into tourism in Antarctica and how tourists can become Antarctic ambassadors. She has been granted €1 million in funding by the Dutch Research Council.

Tourism in Antarctica is growing. Ships are getting bigger, travel further and more often, and companies are offering a growing range of activities, such as heliskiing, running a marathon or taking a tour in a small submarine. How does this affect the region, and how can Antarctica be protected? To help answer these questions, the Dutch Research Council (NWO: Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) is funding four research projects in the field of Antarctic tourism.

So what exactly is an ‘Antarctic ambassador’?

Scheepstra’s research aims to provide more insight into the individual motives of tourists who visit Antarctica. What are their expectations, and which role do they play in encouraging sustainable tourism in Antarctica? ‘Many travel agencies claim that tourists become ambassadors after a visit to Antarctica’, says Scheepstra. ‘However, it is not quite clear what that means. In this project, I will collaborate with several research partners to study what this “Antarctic ambassadorship” entails, and by which factors it is influenced. We will investigate the role of guides, group sizes, cultural values, and the type of activities that tourists pursue on Antarctica. We expect to be able to use this information to develop instruments that will encourage positive, environmentally friendly behaviour.’

Other research projects

The three other research projects that NWO is supporting within the framework of the NWA programme Polar Tourism – Research Programme on Assessment of Impacts and Responses focus on environmental stewardship, tools for public and private parties, and the sum of effects on Antarctic biodiversity and wilderness values. The four research projects will support policy developments in the Netherlands and beyond with the aim of protecting the values of the Antarctic Treaty and the Netherlands Polar Strategy.


Dr Annette Scheepstra’s research project is entitled ‘GUIDE-BEST (Antarctica): Growing Understanding of Individual Drivers of Expectations and Behaviours to Enhance Sustainable Tourism in Antarctic’. The project will start in January 2023 and run for five years.

Partner organizations

In her project, Scheepstra is collaborating with researchers from the University of Canterbury, North Carolina State University, SCAR Antarctic Tourism Action Group, the University of Akureyri, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the University of Surrey, Environmental Consultant Netherlands, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), the Polar Tourism Guides Association, Polar Research and Expedition Consultancy Canada, SCAR Antarctic Tourism Action Group, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, Oceanwide Expedition, and Tilburg University.

About the NWA

NWO carries out the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA: Nationale Wetenschapsagenda) at the request of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The aim of the NWA is to utilize knowledge to make a positive, structural contribution to the society of tomorrow, by building bridges today and jointly ensuring scientific and societal impact. One of the ways it does this is through themed programmes conducted in collaboration with government bodies, which aim to find answers to current societal questions. All research is interdisciplinary, and both the entire knowledge chain and relevant societal partners are involved.

Expedition to Spitsbergen

This summer, Annette Scheepstra will join the group of researchers that will lead the expedition to Spitsbergen.

Last modified:04 July 2022 4.43 p.m.
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