Which is more popular with Australian travellers: the Arctic or Antarctic?
Antarctica is the most popular, probably due to our connection with it, and the lure of ticking off the final continent. It’s also a great partner to Patagonia, which is another wild, remote and stunning place.
The Arctic is becoming more popular, though, with many people wanting to ‘top and tail’ the world. Both are fantastic and the chance to see polar bears is a growing drawcard for the Arctic.
When is the best time to travel to the Arctic and Antarctic?
Summer is the only time visitors can get to the poles. For the Arctic, this means the northern summer between June and September. The Norwegian Arctic opens in June for cruises around the Svalbard archipelago, a wildlife haven and one of the most northernmost inhabited places on the planet.
The Canadian Arctic offers incredible scenery, history, mystery and abundant wildlife.
The Northwest Passage is a huge part of world exploration and most trips will take you through parts of it. The Canadian Arctic is also ideal if clients want to see the Northern Lights from mid-August.
Antarctic travel is from October to March, with three distinct seasons. October/November is when it starts to thaw and the landscape is pristine. Before the penguins make a mess,
as we say!
December/January is the peak of summer with daylight extending to 24 hours.
February/March is the best time for wildlife. Penguin chicks are active and being trained to fish by their parents, and leopard seals and orcas are prowling the waters. In March, you can see up to 40 whales in a single bay.
Cruising is the most common way to visit these regions. Are travellers usually looking for adventure or luxury?
Adventure travellers value experience over thread count and choose their trip by destination and itinerary before the ship. Luxury can mean a privileged experience, such as a butler on hand. In polar regions, you can have both.
Passive tourists, who don’t want to touch and feel everything, may be content with a balcony on a big ship where they can enjoy sitting on their deck and watching the scenery unfold before them.
What do you love about the polar regions?
We’ve travelled to both regions many times and the vastness of both is stunning. The scenery is spectacular and the sense of being somewhere so incredible is palpable. Sitting down among the penguins, navigating icebergs and being enveloped by the incredible silence is enthralling, and moves many people to tears.
What should be considered?
1. The whereabouts of wildlife
Remember that penguins are found in Antarctica and polar bears are in the Arctic.
2. Find out why they are going
You need to know what your clients want to get out of their trip. Not everything is found everywhere, so knowing what they hope to see is crucial.
For example, there are no king penguins in Antarctica – they are in the sub-Antarctic islands. We once heard of a traveller whose whole dream was to see the colourful king penguins and booked on an Antarctic Peninsula trip. His very expensive trip was wasted, and he was very angry about it.
3. Expedition or cruise ship?
Most ships have a good level of comfort, and some deliver luxury. Ships with fewer than 150 passengers are considered ‘expedition’ whereas those with more than 500 are a ‘passing by’ cruise.
4. Check the loyalty offer
Once they visit one polar region, clients may well come back to book a return trip or to go to the opposite end. Most companies have returning passenger offers, so start talking to clients about their future trips while you are working on the current one.
Some companies give a 10 per cent discount, but one we work with gives up to 30 per cent. When you’re talking Antarctica, that can be a saving of $10,000.
Our agency is a member of Travellers Choice but we are always happy to give advice and guidance to all agents. We love the polar regions and always enjoy helping make it better and easier for people to find their right trip.