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Permanent Land-based Facilities for Tourism in Antarctica: The Need for Regulation


  • Kees Bastmeijer is associate professor of environmental law at the Faculty of Law, Tilburg University, The Netherlands. His research interests include nature protection law, the role of law in protecting the global commons, transboundary environmental impact assessment, legal aspects of sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility. Before his appointment at Tilburg University, Kees Bastmeijer worked from 1989 to 1999 as a legal policy adviser at the Dutch Ministry of Environmental Protection and has been participating in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings since 1992.

    Machiel Lamers is a Ph.D. researcher on Antarctic tourism at the International Centre for Integrated Assessment and Sustainable Development (ICIS), Maastricht University, The Netherlands. He holds a Master's degree in Arts and Sciences from the same university and a Master's degree in Cultures and Development Studies from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. His research interests include tourism, polar regions, governance and sustainable development.

    Juan Harcha is a Chilean lawyer and Associate Professor of Law of Economics at the Pedro de Valdivia University, Chile. Thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, as well as a second scholarship from the Government of Chile, both awarded in 2004, he was granted the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree by the University of Georgia in 2006. His thesis work addressed the issue of Regulation of Tourism in Antarctica.


Antarctica is often described as one of world's last wildernesses. For a very long time, its isolation from human settlements provided an effective protection from intensive human visitation; however, over the past two decades, human activities in Antarctica – in particular tourist activities – have grown and diversified rapidly. In view of environmental and other concerns, regulating Antarctic tourism has become one of the major issues of debate within the Antarctic Treaty System. One of the questions that has received much attention since 2004 is the question of whether additional measures are needed to regulate (e.g. prohibit) the future development of permanent land-based facilities (such as hotels, visitor centres, logistic facilities) for tourism in Antarctica. A number of State governments involved in the Antarctic Treaty System have proposed to prohibit such developments; however, the question has not yet received a clear answer.

After a brief introduction to the Antarctic Treaty System, this article provides a definition of permanent land-based facilities for tourism and an overview of current and past land-based tourism facilities in Antarctica. Next, the question of whether such facilities are likely to further develop in the near future is discussed and an inventory is made of arguments for and against such developments. Environmental issues will be discussed first, followed by other considerations. Based on this information, a number of regulatory options are described for consideration by policy makers. The authors argue that there is a need for regulating permanent land-based tourist facilities in Antarctica and in the conclusion of this article they express their views in respect of the most favourable option.