If images of cuddly penguins, towering icebergs and the surreal
stillness of Antarctica are giving you Happy Feet, hang on!
The government has warned that citizens in search of a cool
experience had better keep away from the South Pole, because "China
has not approved any kind of tour to the region out of concern for
the environment and traveler safety."
"The natural conditions there are harsh and ecologically
fragile. China currently is not considering opening up the area for
tourists," said a notice published on the website of the State
Oceanic Administration (SOA) over the weekend.
The notice quoted officials from the SOA, the National Tourism
Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying that
citizens should "think carefully" before signing up for a trip to
the Antarctic. Although a trip to the South Pole is not on the
normal menu of travel agents in the country, the service is
available for intrepid travelers through other countries.
As more Chinese travel overseas, many are seeking out novel
destinations and looking for bragging rights. This has led to some
travel agencies and organizations trying to cash in by organizing
trips to Antarctica.
Travelers, who can be charged up to a hefty 100,000 yuan
(US$12,800) per person, typically fly to Chile or Argentina first,
where local agencies take them to the South Pole usually by
It's unclear how many Chinese have succeeded in visiting the
frozen land and many trips have been cancelled for various
A tour organized by an agency in Zhejiang Province was called off last February
because there weren't enough customers. Local media reported that
the six who had signed up for the trip changed their minds but
didn't say why. Others have undertaken the trip under the cover of
The notice quoted SOA officials as saying that China is
currently drafting a regulation on Antarctic tourism.
As China is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, the notice
said, the regulation would be in accordance with the agreement,
which bans any activities that may harm the ecology of the area and
requires a pre-assessment of every proposed activity.
Antarctica is attracting a growing number of tourists. It's
estimated that about 15,000 people visit the South Pole each year
mainly from the Untied States, Australia, New Zealand and European
countries. The number is growing at an annual rate of 10 to 15
On a list of the Top 10 World Travel Destinations announced
early this month by iExplore, a leading website for adventure
travel, Antarctica has jumped from last year's 19th to second.
(China Daily January 23, 2007)