Interview with Professor Hans Gelter on teaching impacts of tourism in Antarctica

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADr. Hans Gelter is Associate Professor at Luleå University of Technology in Luleå, Sweden where he teaches various subjects within the Experience Production Study Program such as Hospitality, Interpretation, Guiding, Environmental and Outdoor Education,Experience Production and Creativity Management.

Dr. Gelter is joining the upcoming SOI Antarctic Expedition and teaching students from around the world about the impacts of tourism in Antarctica along with fellow professor and expedition staff Dr. Patrick Maher. This is the third blog in a series of interviews with professors who are providing an enriched, multidisciplinary learning experience on Expedition. Here is what Dr. Gelter has to say about his course and the expedition experience…

Q: Can you tell me a bit about the course you are teaching on expedition?

The course (Tourism and Polar Destinations) focuses on the special circumstances of Antarctica as a destination in tourism, its remoteness, fragility, etc. and the experiences tourists bring back from a visit to this special place. We are discussing the impacts of tourism on the environment, sustainability and Carrying Capacity issues, regulations and tour operators etc., but also impacts of the experiences visiting the places and if and how the experience may transform the visitors.

Q: How is the Antarctic environment incorporated into the learning experience?

Students are on spot during landings analyzing their own experience as tourists in the polar environment, and also conducting studies on their peers through surveys, observations etc. Instead of reading about polar tourism the students get a change of being and experiencing the transformation we are studying, which gives a much deeper understanding of the processes.

Q: What do you hope students will take away from your course?

A better understanding of this destination and its importance to create ambassadors for climate change and sustainability, a better understanding of the processes and capabilities of eco-tourism, and an engagement for developing sustainable tourism as well as an engagement for the polar environments, i.e. becoming a Green Generation.  And applying it to their future in tourism.

Q: As you have been on expedition before, what changes have you witnessed in youth who participate on expedition?

Among the students I have observed and also analyzed, the transformation from being a visitor in the place and just observing things to becoming deeply involved in the place and its future, becoming true ambassadors for the Polar Regions fulfilling the aims and mission of SOI.

I feel happy after every expedition to know there is a new group of deeply engaged youth going out to shake the world about their future.

Q: How did you connect with Students on Ice? And what is it that interests you about an SOI expedition?

I became aware and involved with SOI through my colleague Pat in 2009, and I immediately felt that the mission of SOI is similar as my mission as educator and researcher, and if I in any way can contribute to SOI and its mission, I would be very happy. My interest in SOI is besides the research opportunities to on spot study the transformation visitors make by the polar experience, is also to promote the mission of SOI in Sweden and Europe, to make people and organizations aware of the important work that SOI is doing.

Q: Favourite expedition experience so far?

Seeing a young girl resting alone on the crater slope of Deception Island, suddenly being approached by a penguin, and  how they then started to “communicate” sitting next to each other, and how deeply that experience impacted here about the Antarctica wildlife and the place.

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