How to forge a warm relationship with a very cool place

As a tourist destination, Antarctica has become one of the coolest places on Earth.

How best to enhance a visitor’s experience in, and understanding of, this extreme but fragile environment is the object of a new University of Tasmania research project.

It is included in the latest round of Australian Research Council Linkage grants, announced on Thursday (21 May 2020) by the Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan. Linkage grants support long-term strategic research collaborations between university researchers and businesses, industry and community organisations.

A University of Tasmania team led by Professor Elizabeth Leane, from the College of Arts, Law and Education’s School of Humanities, working with the small-group adventure travel company Intrepid Travel, has received $100,000 in funding for the project, Transforming Tourists’ Antarctic Experience.

“We will investigate how tour operators can foster positive and culturally informed relationships with the region among visitors of different national backgrounds,” Professor Leane said.

“Antarctica is not a place where you can pick and choose the sites you visit. Tourist experience is very heavily curated and mediated by operators. Through extensive fieldwork with Intrepid, we expect to generate a new understanding of how this mediating role can combine with the sensory experience of Antarctica to forge human connections with this place.”

Among the anticipated outcomes are protocols for best practice in designing and implementing tourist experiences.

“By addressing the diversity of visitors to Antarctica – who come with a variety of preconceptions about the region – the project should benefit both operators and the polar environment.”

Elizabeth Leane is a professor of English who has previously researched the power of literature to influence what we think and feel about Antarctica. Her project team includes tourism academics Professor Can Seng Ooi and Associate Professor Anne Hardy, and Dr Carolyn Philpott, a musicologist with expertise in sound, place and environment.

Further reading:

Antarctic Engagements Research Group

Tourism Research and Education Network (TRENd)

Research to Reality:

Gateway to a new vision for Antarctic connections

Exploring humanity’s relationship with the South Pole

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