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Proactively managing the growth of Antarctic tourism: towards a cap-and-trade system

  • 1 March, 2021
  • Wageningen University, Environmental Systems Analysis & Environmental Policy
  • dr SB Amelungdr MAJ Lamers

Antarctica has become a popular tourism destination in recent decades, with the pre-pandemic exponential growth in visitor numbers likely to resume soon. Tourists are drawn to experience Antarctica’s intrinsic values, such as wildlife and wilderness. However, the presence of visitors in such numbers threatens those same values. While concerns over tourism and its impacts have long been expressed by decision-makers, no solutions have materialized. Additionally, funding for the management and research necessary to preserve Antarctica’s unique wilderness character is severely lacking. My project scopes the potential of an innovative mechanism to address these challenges simultaneously: a system of tradable visitation permits akin to a cap-and-trade scheme. Such system has three core elements: (1) a cap on tourism volume, (2) mechanisms to allocate permits to tourism industry end-users, collect revenues, and disperse these funds for conservation and research, and (3) a mechanism to allow subsequent trade of permits amongst end-users. By reviewing the literature on the nature of and experiences with such related schemes in tourism and other contexts, I explore the critical design elements of a system of tradable visitation permits. These elements and their relationships will be integrated into a conceptual framework guiding inquiry into the feasibility of implementation for Antarctic tourism.


Michael Cacciapaglia

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