Tourism policy is particular important because of the steady increase in the numbers of tourists visiting Antarctica, especially by sea. Visits by tourists raise important issues related to impacts at heavily visited sites and ensuring safety of passengers and crew on tour vessels. At the 30th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) at New Delhi in 2007, the United States proposed and the meeting adopted a Resolution recommending that countries discourage or decline to authorize tour operators that use vessels carrying more than 500 passengers from making any landings in Antarctica, and limiting the number of vessels conducting or passengers participating in landings at any one time. The United States has been active in helping to establish visitor guidelines for places where landings occur, and spearheaded at the 31st ATCM at Kyiv in 2008 efforts to begin systematically assessing the possible cumulative impact of tourism on these landing sites.
Experts from the United States, in particular from the U.S. Coast Guard, and other nations are working with the ATCM and within committees of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to assess the adequacy of ship design and equipment standards, vessel management procedures, and search and rescue facilities within the Antarctic Treaty area.
Tourism will be a major focus of discussion at the ATCM to be hosted by the United States on April 6-17, 2009, in Baltimore.