What is IAATO?

Tourism in Antarctica is skyrocketing, with 42% growth in passenger numbers forecast for next season. With 80% visitors stepping foot on the top 20 sites, there's huge strain on a tiny portion of this precious continent. Facing these numerous environmental challenges head-on is the visionary International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, IAATO.

  • IAATO is a voluntary organisation, resolved to set industry standards that will protect Antarctica.
  • Although made up of competitor tour operators, it is remarkably effective and dedicated to its mission to encourage responsible travel.
  • Meeting once a year, IAATO passes policies, procedures and guidelines through a democratic vote, often going over and above the minimum requirement.

Going Ashore in Antarctica - IAATO guidelines

IAATO in practice


IAATO's guidelines cover all parts of Antarctic tourism, including wildlife-watching, emergency evacuation, staff-to-passenger ratios and restrictions on numbers of people ashore. Often, the guidelines go above and beyond the minimum requirement, not just to reduce impact but be an active force for good.

Recent updates include:

  1. A revised code of conduct to reduce boats striking whales
  2. Clean Seas policy unilaterally accepted
  3. A blanket ban on drone usage
Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

There is no sovereign government in Antarctica, instead over 40 governments work together under the Antarctic Treaty. IAATO represents the tourism industry, and works with the treaty signatories as an invited expert.

Swoop and IAATO

We are proud to be an associate of IAATO and we adhere to their guidelines throughout our work. For Swoop, that means everything from ensuring our photos reflect the wildlife-watching guidance, to guaranteeing every single one of our customers receives IAATO's information booklet before they depart.

We only work with other tour operators that are part of IAATO, and who abide by regulations that will protect the continent we love. To keep up to date, every year we join hundreds of others at an annual meeting to understand the latest best practises, changing guidelines, and to contribute to the conversation about sustainable tourism in Antarctica.


Our travellers and IAATO

Going to Antarctica is a huge privilege. This continent faces unprecedented challenges and deserves to be approached conscientiously and respectfully, in full knowledge of the responsibility that rests on every traveller's shoulders.

You can help be a part of IAATO's vision for Antarctica by taking note of the guidelines on conduct while you're there. If you're travelling with us, you can find the guidelines in your confirmation and final documents. On your return, you can continue the important work by being an ambassador for IAATO, bringing to light the importance of conservation and research work in Antarctica. Your support will be increasingly important as we creep closer to the Antarctic Treaty's expiry date in 2048.


Watching Adelie penguins from the ice

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Alex says

IAATO is an extraordinary force for good, and one that Swoop is incredibly proud to be associated with. Watching competitors rub shoulders every year, collaborating for what's best for Antarctica, has led to some groundbreaking achievements for the white continent.

Alex Mudd Polar Specialist

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