(Yicai Global) Feb. 5 -- The number of Chinese tourists to Antarctica has increased almost 40-fold over the past eight years and to ensure its conservation, the country is ratcheting down on travel rules to preserve the polar region's environment.
The region's rising popularity has led to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development requiring travel agencies to report group information, such as head counts, travel dates and itineraries, to regulators 30 days before tours begin, Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday. Visitors also need to sign an ecology protection agreement.
Agencies must also ensure tourists are responsible for their actions, the commission said in a recent notice. It called on tour operators to comply with local laws and treaties on ecologically fragile regions that China has signed. They should train up staff to minimize environmental damage and report any problems to local agencies, it added.
Some 3,944 Chinese travelers went to Antarctica in 2016, up from less than 100 in 2008, the report said. In January alone, some 2,000 tourists from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong visited the region, and the country will be the second-largest source of tourists there this year behind the United States, it added.
Tourists will receive an Antarctic travel handbook before they depart, which lists more than 30 rules for visiting the region. They will be subject to a body search before landing to ensure they do not inadvertently take foreign species to the continent, and will need to wear sterilized boots. They may not litter; take away animals, plants or man-made items; or feed, touch or approach birds or seals.
Due to the region's low temperatures, Antarctica is susceptible to problems arising from waste. It takes 180 years for a banana peel to decompose there, and even longer for human feces, an insider said. At China's Zhongshan Station in the continent, human waste is burned, rather than disposed of with water. Incinerated detritus is then packed and shipped to China to minimize pollution around the polar cap.