Antarctic cruise tourism: the paradoxes of ambassadorship, "last chance tourism" and greenhouse gas emissions

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225 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines a paradoxical issue in tourism's adaptation to climate change and emissions reduction demands. Operators increasingly take tourists to destinations threatened by climate change, with Antarctica and other polar regions as favourites and cruise ship and aircraft as main transport modes. The selling point is to see a destination before it disappears, a form of last chance tourism. This has been claimed to increase the environmental awareness of tourists and make them "ambassadors" for conservation and the visited destination. Antarctic cruise ship passengers tripled from 2000 to 2007. The paper finds that high levels of greenhouse gas emissions are created by cruise ship tourists in general, and especially high levels for those visiting the Antarctic, up to approximately eight times higher per capita and per day than average international tourism trips. A survey found no evidence for the hypothesis that the trips develop greater environmental awareness, change attitudes or encourage more sustainable future travel choices. Of the Antarctic cruise passengers surveyed, 59% felt that their travel did not impact on climate change; fewer than 7% had or might offset their emissions. Alternative opportunities for visitation to glacial/polar destinations that comply with the desire to reduce future emissions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-354
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Cruise tourism
  • Emissions
  • Environmental awareness
  • Last chance tourism


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