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CAPE TOUR CHARTERS (INBOUND OPERATOR) NEWS RELEASE
Cape Tour Charters c.c. (CTC) was founded in 1993, as the Tourism boom to South Africa started to accelerate. Early on, it was decided to focus on specialist niche markets, rather than general tourism to the Country. One of these niche markets is eclipse tourism.
Cape Tour Charters is a wholly owned subsidiary of SAA City Center Tokai Travel. SAACC Tokai has been family owned and operated since 1989; the company being established in 1985. SAACC Tokai is member of IATA since 1989, and ASATA (Association of South African Travel Agencies), and CTC is a member of SATSA . Tokai bought CTC in 1996, joined the SAA City Center group in 1998, and is one of the leading outlets in Cape Town. For 2002, their monthly turnover is approx ZAR 2 Mio per month. The incoming department (CTC) is mainly a niche market tour operator, who decided in 2000 to concentrate on interesting niche markets. The main CTC client base today is the Netherlands, Germany (through the Lufthansa City Center group), and the UK.
Whilst researching the 2003 eclipse, CTC made contact with Antarctic Logistic Company International, a newly formed company in South Africa, a joint venture between Meihuizen International Shipping Company, South Africa and INTAARI, of St Petersburg, Russia. The original discussions centered on vessel charter, but once it became clear that ALCI would be granted the license to land an aircraft on the mainland of the Antarctic, CTC changed focus, as the advantages of viewing an eclipse from a stable platform far outweighed a ships deck. Staff of CTC were invited to attend the first ever flight to the Antarctic, in early Dec 2001. This flight landed on a specially constructed runway at the Russian Antarctic base of Novolazareskaya. Shortly after this trip, CTC signed a cooperation agreement with ALCI, the purpose of this agreement being to promote tourism to Dromming Maud Land. Starting with the eclipse of 2003, tourism to this region will be slowly built up. Positive developments include a certain portion of the cost of each trip being used to preserve the unique qualities of the Antarctic. Tourists will be obliged to adhere to the strict code of conduct set up by ALCI and Green Peace.
Scientists are also pleased by the development of the possibilities of flying to the Antarctic. Previous expeditions have had to travel by sea, adding almost 4 weeks to any journey to the Antarctic. Now with the dedicated air bridge to Novo, scientists can arrive earlier and leave later, thus extending their research time.
ANAN 83 Wednesday, 9 October 2002
PROPOSED DML TOUR OPS DEFERRED, MOUNTAINEERING NOW TARGETED
Plans by South Africa-based company Antarctic Logistics Centre
International (ALCI) to fly tourists to a tent-based field camp in Dronning
Maud Land (DML) for a series of 'on-ice' adventures during the 2002-03
austral summer have been postponed for 12 months. Despite the deferral, ALCI
is understood to be hoping to support several groups of mountaineers in the
DML region this coming January, although details of the planned program
have apparently not yet been finalised.
ALCI's tourist proposal involved the provision of seats on national program
support flights by Ilyushin-76 [IL-76] heavy-lift jet aircraft from Cape
Town to a blue-ice runway near Russia's Novolazarevskaya station.
Tent-based camps were to be established a few kilometres from the station
and up to 40 tourists at a time were to be provided with a range of
experiences in the local area (ANAN-61/01, 5 December 2001).
All equipment, supplies and fuel required for the 2002-03 tourist
operations are believed to have been delivered to Novolazarevskaya last
June from the resupply ship 'Magdalena Oldendorff' before it became beset
off DML (ANAN-77/06, 17 July 2002). However, it is understood that (so far)
unspecified problems associated with Oldendorff's besetment have forced
ALCI to postpone its tourist camp initiative until the 2003-04 season.
While the field camp concept has been deferred, ALCI is believed to be
hoping to fly several groups of mountaineers to DML for 2-3 week visits in
January and February. Just which area is being targeted by the climbers is
not clear at this stage, however, a series of challenging, spectacular,
peaks, many of which are unclimbed, are located in the DML region
(ANAN-41/10, 14 February 2001).
Those involved would fly into Novolazarevskaya from Cape Town on the IL-76,
although it is not clear how they would travel from there to the climbing
areas 100-150 km inland. Given the time available in the region, and the
distances involved, flights by a smaller aircraft from Novolazarevskaya
appear to be the only option. No details about that operation have been
released at this time.
At last month's Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Warsaw, Poland,
the Russian Federation provided an environmental impact assessment for the
reconstructed blue-ice runway at Novolazarevskaya (ATCM-XXV Working Paper
According to the report from the Fifth meeting of the Committee on
Environmental Protection, also held in Warsaw during ATCM XXV, Russian
delegates said during discussions that their country "had not been
contacted by tour companies about using the runway". They did not, however,
preclude the possibility that it could be used for tourism purposes in the
US-based tour operator Adventure Network International (ANI) has been
offering potential clients two three-week mountaineering visits to the
Holtedahl Peaks region of DML in November-December this year for climbing
and ski touring activities (ANAN-73/02, 22 May 2002). ANI is to use a
separate IL-76 on its main intercontinental flight route from Punta Arenas,
Chile to the Patriot Hills in Ellsworth Land over the next three months. It
indicated earlier this year that its flights into DML would, like ALCI,
operate from and back to Cape Town. It is understood, however, that ANI now
plans to undertake those flight operations from Punta Arenas.
ANI has a proven track record of achievement in the Weddell Sea sector over
the past 15 years and a well-established marketing strategy for its
products (ANAN-28/02, 16 August 2000). If it does successfully provide
support for mountaineering and other expeditions in the DML region, then
ALCI is likely to be in competition with the US company for market share.
LIMITED DML TOURIST OPS ON OFFER; GROWTH OF ACTIVITIES PROPOSED
A new series of visits by tourists to Dronning Maud Land (DML) from South Africa by air is expected to go ahead in limited form next month. The
group behind the venture envisages slowly developing the operation over the next few years, with the range of 'on ice' activities thought likely to
eventually expand to include flying visits to the South Geographic Pole (SGP).
Tourists are being offered the opportunity to fly from Cape Town to the blue-ice runway situated close to the Russian national program station
Novolazarevskaya in late January [not compressed-snow surface as reported previously by this newsletter (ANAN-54/01, 29 August 2001)]. Up to forty places for paying passengers are currently available and the organisers say that there has been "considerable interest" in the venture from
travel agents and others.
Three flights by a Ilyushin-76 [IL-76] heavy-lift jet aircraft are scheduled on the 4,120-km Cape-Novo route in 2001-02, the first being listed for 6 December, and the other two for 26 and 28 January, although the timing of each will be weather dependent (see ANAN-61/04 following and
ANAN-54/01, 29 August 2001).
The prime aim of the air service is to provide a "quick intercontinental feeder link" for a number of national programs that operate in the DML
region, any extra return from the inclusion of tourists on the flights being seen as a way of helping to reduce the 'per seat, per kilogram' costs
incurred by the government programs who use the service.
The first flight this season has been "fully booked" for national program personnel, places being available for tourists on the January flights on a
round-trip, 'thirty-six-hours-on-ice', basis. As a result, there will be little opportunity for tourist activities to extend much beyond the area close to
Novolazarevskaya this season.
The Transworld Travel company (TWT) in South Africa has been appointed as agent for the tourist operation by the 'Antarctica Logistics Centre
International' (ALCI), a new joint South African and Russian group that is operating the DML air-link (see ANAN-61/06 following).
Flights from Cape Town to DML were pioneered by the, now, US-based tour operator Adventure Network International (ANI), and they and what was once their sister company, Polar Logistics (PL) of the UK, have operated on the route in recent years. Both ANI and PL used the relatively 'weather friendly' 'Blue 1' ice runway further inland from Novolazarevskaya, but at last report neither was planning to fly to the region this season (ANAN-60/01, 21 November 2001).
TWT's John Sparks told ANAN last week that his company commenced work on the tourist project in 1998 and that it plans to "launch Antarctica as a holiday destination at most of the Travel Shows in Europe and the United States next year", offering visits to the ice in conjunction with opportunities for tours to locations in southern Africa.
Spark's company is currently marketing the January flights at a "special introductory" price of $US2,500 ex Cape Town for they see the operation
this season as being in 'foundation mode'. In 2002-03 the cost of a basic four-day DML visit will rise to $US11,000 but John emphasised that
longer stays will eventually be included if required by clients.
Once in Antarctica the tourists are to stay in two separate tent-based camps located a few kilometres from Novolazarevskaya. Together, the
camps can support up to forty clients at any one time. Each camp will be several kilometres from the other and, in the future, tourists from each
camp are unlikely to meet members of the other camp while 'on the ice', an arrangement designed to ensure that those who make the visits get a
"true sense of what it is like to be in Antarctica".
While TWT says that accommodation at the camps will be of a basic standard, tents will be "fully equipped with stretchers, mats, sleeping bags,
pillows and other features". Three to four people are to run each camp and the South African company's aim is "to provide a high level of food and general service for guests".
The infrastructure for the two camps is to be flown to Novolazarevskaya on this week's IL-76 flight. The camps are to be erected by TWT personnel in the next week or so in order to test out the set-up prior to arrival of the tourists in late January. Both camps will be de-commissioned at the end of summer and stored at Novolazarevskaya over winter. Russian station personnel will re-establish the camps before the first flight of the 2002-03 season and take them down and store them again for the following winter.
John Sparks says that plans call for the IL-76 that is conducting the January flights to wait at the Novolazarevskaya runway while tourists stay at the field camps over a 36-hour period. During that time only a limited number of local-area activities will be available to them, but commencing in
2002-03 visitors will be offered a wider range of experiences during the proposed four-day period on the continent.
Local area activities from next year are likely to include hiking, ice biking, ice golf, ice tennis, cross-country skiing, kite flying, orienteering,
mountaineering, a sledging trip to the ice barrier, lectures on the environment, and various indoor games for times of bad weather". India's national
program station Maitri is only five kilometres from Novolazarevskaya and visits to both facilities are likely to be of interest to the fly-in tourists.
In addition to events in the general area of the camps, what are said to be "daily excursions" by air to the coastline 75 km to the north, as well as
the SGP 1,850 km to the south, are also to be offered as an "optional extra" sometime in the next few years.
No details are currently available as to the type of aircraft or vehicles that would be used for flights and surface journeys from the field camps. John
Sparks says that the 'Basler 67' that is currently on charter to ANI (see ANAN-61/04 following) is to provide intra-continental flight support for
national program personnel after they arrive from Cape Town, and that the use of that or similar aircraft by TWT in future seasons "is being
explored" at this time.
Three IL-76 flights are currently scheduled on the Cape-Novo route in 2002-03, although the first is already fully booked, again by national program personnel. From 2003-04 onwards, ALCI is planning to operate up to five flights from Cape Town and hopes to expand tour operations accordingly (see ANAN-61/09 following).
The blue-ice runway, which is some 2,760 m in length and 60 m wide, lies at an elevation of 550 m and is located about twenty-five kilometres
inland from Novolazarevskaya. Specialist personnel from the Russian national program are understood to have wintered there this year to support
aircraft operations as the first ship to the area is not expected to arrive until sometime in the new year, after the flights have commenced.
John Sparks says that the Russian national program has carried out an 'extensive environmental evaluation' of runway operations and plans to
monitor operations this season 'very closely'. He also said that Russia plans to provide details in an Information Paper to next September's
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ANAN-52/01, 1 August 2001).
The one-way flight time from Cape Town is around six hours, the aircraft having a 'point of no return' about an hour from Novolazarevskaya. As is
the case for the Patriot Hills flights, weather conditions at Novolazarevskaya will be a critical factor in determining final flight schedules (see
TWT is currently developing a web site that is expected to be available by the end of December at: http://www.transworldtourism.com
JOINT VENTURE FOCUSING ON CAPE SERVICES, DML AIR LINK
A new South Africa-based company that was formally launched this week aims to boost Cape Town's role as an Antarctic
gateway by providing a comprehensive range of coordinated services and an air-link to the continent for both government
and non-government operators who use the city as a staging base for Antarctic activities.
The joint venture, which is named 'Antarctic Logistics Centre International' (ALCI), plans to offer a range of support services.
These are said to include ship management, whare-housing, customs-related services, waste handling, fixed-wing and
helicopter chartering, and accommodation arrangements and airport transfers for Antarctic personnel.
ACLI is also the entity behind intercontinental flight operations planned between Cape Town and Dronning Maud Land this
season (see ANAN-61/01 preceding). The basic government-focussed air-link concept is similar to that offered in the DML
region in the past by UK-based air operator Polar Logistics (ANAN-28/03, 16 August 2000 and ANAN-41/10, 14 February
ALCI is a joint venture between Meihuizen International, an 18-year-old South African company that operates ships and acts
as a port agent and freight handling company, and INTAARI (South Africa). The latter is a sister to INTAARI of St Petersburg,
Russia, a 12-year-old firm that is, in effect, the commercial arm of Russian national program operations in both the Arctic
The new company says that it was formed to support "the growing use of Cape Town as an Antarctic gateway", although to
date the activity has involved mostly government programs; few non-government Antarctic vessels or aircraft have passed
through the city each year in recent times (ANAN-58/03, 7 November 2001).
ALCI has a web site under construction at http://www.alci.info/.